How to Do Market Research: A Guide and Template
Discover the different types of market research, how to conduct your own market research, and use a free template to help you along the way.
MARKET RESEARCH KIT
5 Research and Planning Templates + a Free Guide on How to Use Them in Your Market Research
Today's consumers have a lot of power. They can research your product or service and make purchase decisions entirely on their own.
Moreover, rather than talking to one of your sales reps, they're more likely to ask for referrals from members of their networks or read online reviews.
With this in mind, have you adapted your marketing strategy to complement the way today's consumers research, shop, and buy?
To do just that, you must have a deep understanding of who your buyers are, your specific market, and what influences the purchase decisions and behavior of your target audience members.
Enter: Market Research.
Whether you're new to market research, this guide will provide you with a blueprint for conducting a thorough study of your market, target audience, competition, and more.
What is market research?
Market research is the process of gathering information about your target market and customers to verify the success of a new product, help your team iterate on an existing product, or understand brand perception to ensure your team is effectively communicating your company's value effectively.
Market research can answer various questions about the state of an industry, but it's hardly a crystal ball that marketers can rely on for insights on their customers. Market researchers investigate several areas of the market, and it can take weeks or even months to paint an accurate picture of the business landscape.
However, researching just one of those areas can make you more intuitive to who your buyers are and how to deliver value that no other business is offering them right now.
Certainly you can make sound judgment calls based on your experience in the industry and your existing customers. However, keep in mind that market research offers benefits beyond those strategies. There are two things to consider:
- Your competitors also have experienced individuals in the industry and a customer base. It's very possible that your immediate resources are, in many ways, equal to those of your competition's immediate resources. Seeking a larger sample size for answers can provide a better edge.
- Your customers don't represent the attitudes of an entire market. They represent the attitudes of the part of the market that is already drawn to your brand.
The market research services market is growing rapidly, which signifies a strong interest in market research as we enter 2023. The market is expected to grow from roughly $75 billion in 2021 to $90.79 billion in 2025 at a compound annual growth rate of 5%.
Free Market Research Kit
- SWOT Analysis Template
- Survey Template
- Focus Group Template
You're all set!
Click this link to access this resource at any time.
Why do market research?
Market research allows you to meet your buyer where they are. As our world (both digital and analog) becomes louder and demands more and more of our attention, this proves invaluable. By understanding your buyer's problems, pain points, and desired solutions, you can aptly craft your product or service to naturally appeal to them. Once you're ready to expand your business, you can also use market research to help you create a market development strategy .
Market research also provides insight into a wide variety of things that impact your bottom line, including:
- Where your target audience and current customers conduct their product or service research
- Which of your competitors your target audience looks to for information, options, or purchases
- What's trending in your industry and in the eyes of your buyer
- Who makes up your market and what their challenges are
- What influences purchases and conversions among your target audience
- Consumer attitudes about a particular topic, pain, product, or brand
- Whether there's demand for the business initiatives you're investing in
- Unaddressed or underserved customer needs that can be flipped into selling opportunity
- Attitudes about pricing for a particular product or service
Ultimately, market research allows you to get information from a larger sample size of your target audience, eliminating bias and assumptions so that you can get to the heart of consumer attitudes. As a result, you can make better business decisions from knowing the bigger picture.
As you begin honing in on your market research, you'll likely hear about primary and secondary market research. The easiest way to think about primary and secondary research is to envision two umbrellas sitting beneath market research: one for primary market research and one for secondary market research.
Beneath these two umbrellas sits a number of different types of market research, which we'll highlight below . Defining which of the two umbrellas your market research fits beneath isn't necessarily crucial, although some marketers prefer to make the distinction.
So, in case you encounter a marketer who wants to define your types of market research as primary or secondary — or if you're one of them — let's cover the definitions of the two categories next. Then, we'll look at the different types of market research in the following section .
Primary vs. Secondary Research
To give you an idea of how extensive market research can get, consider that it can either be qualitative or quantitative in nature — depending on the studies you conduct and what you're trying to learn about your industry.
Qualitative research is concerned with public opinion, and explores how the market feels about the products currently available in that market. Quantitative research is concerned with data, and looks for relevant trends in the information that's gathered from public records.
There are two main types of market research that your business can conduct to collect actionable information on your products, including primary research and secondary research. Let's dive into those two types, now.
Primary research is the pursuit of first-hand information about your market and the customers within your market. It's useful when segmenting your market and establishing your buyer personas. Primary market research tends to fall into one of two buckets: exploratory and specific research.
Exploratory Primary Research
This kind of primary market research is less concerned with measurable customer trends and more about potential problems that would be worth tackling as a team. It normally takes place as a first step — before any specific research has been performed — and may involve open-ended interviews or surveys with small numbers of people.
Specific Primary Research
Specific primary market research often follows exploratory research and is used to dive into issues or opportunities the business has already identified as important. In specific research, the business can take a smaller or more precise segment of their audience and ask questions aimed at solving a suspected problem.
Secondary research is all the data and public records you have at your disposal to draw conclusions from (e.g. trend reports, market statistics, industry content, and sales data you already have on your business). Secondary research is particularly useful for analyzing your competitors . The main buckets your secondary market research will fall into include:
These sources are your first and most-accessible layer of material when conducting secondary market research. They're often free to find and review — lots of bang for your buck here.
Government statistics are one of the most common types of public sources according to Entrepreneur. Two U.S. examples of public market data are the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor & Statistics , both of which offer helpful information on the state of various industries nationwide.
These sources often come in the form of market reports, consisting of industry insight compiled by a research agency like Pew , Gartner , or Forrester . Because this info is so portable and distributable, it typically costs money to download and obtain.
Internal sources deserve more credit for supporting market research than they generally get. Why? This is the market data your organization already has!
Average revenue per sale, customer retention rates, and other historical data on the health of old and new accounts can all help you draw conclusions on what your buyers might want right now.
Now that we've covered these overarching market research categories, let's get more specific and look at the various types of market research you might choose to conduct.
Types of Market Research
- Focus Groups
- Product/ Service Use Research
- Observation-Based Research
- Buyer Persona Research
- Market Segmentation Research
- Pricing Research
- Competitive Analysis Research
- Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty Research
- Brand Awareness Research
- Campaign Research
Interviews allow for face-to-face discussions (in-person and virtual) so you can allow for a natural flow or conversation and watch your interviewee's body language while doing so.
Your interviewees can answer questions about themselves to help you design your buyer personas. These buyer personas describe your ideal customer's age, family size, budget, job title, the challenges they face at work, and similar aspects of their lifestyle. Having this buyer profile in hand can shape your entire marketing strategy, from the features you add to your product to the content you publish on your website.
2. Focus Groups
Focus groups provide you with a handful of carefully-selected people that can test out your product, watch a demo, provide feedback, and/or answer specific questions.
This type of market research can give you ideas for product differentiation, or the qualities of your product that make it unique in the marketplace. Consider asking your focus group questions about (and showing them examples of) your services, and ultimately use the group's feedback to make these services better.
3. Product/Service Use Research
Product or service use research offers insight into how and why your audience uses your product or service, and specific features of that item. This type of market research also gives you an idea of the product or service's usability for your target audience.
4. Observation-Based Research
Observation-based research allows you to sit back and watch the ways in which your target audience members go about using your product or service, what works well in terms of UX , what roadblocks they hit, and which aspects of it could be easier for them to use and apply.
5. Buyer Persona Research
Buyer persona research gives you a realistic look at who makes up your target audience, what their challenges are, why they want your product or service, what they need from your business and brand, and more.
6. Market Segmentation Research
Market segmentation research allows you to categorize your target audience into different groups (or segments) based on specific and defining characteristics — this way, you can determine effective ways to meet their needs, understand their pain points and expectations, learn about their goals, and more.
7. Pricing Research
Pricing research gives you an idea of what similar products or services in your market sell for, what your target audience expects to pay — and is willing to pay — for whatever it is you sell, and what's a fair price for you to list your product or service at. All of this information will help you define your pricing strategy .
8. Competitive Analysis
Competitive analyses are valuable because they give you a deep understanding of the competition in your market and industry. You can learn about what's doing well in your industry, what your target audience is already going for in terms of products like yours, which of your competitors should you work to keep up with and surpass, and how you can clearly separate yourself from the competition .
9. Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty Research
Customer satisfaction and loyalty research give you a look into how you can get current customers to return for more business and what will motivate them to do so (e.g. loyalty programs , rewards, remarkable customer service). This research will help you discover the most-effective ways to promote delight among your customers . If you're using a CRM system, see if you're able to send out automated customer feedback surveys to aid in this process.
10. Brand Awareness Research
Brand awareness research tells you about what your target audience knows about and recognizes from your brand. It tells you about the associations your audience members make when they think about your business and what they believe you're all about.
11. Campaign Research
Campaign research entails looking into your past campaigns and analyzing their success among your target audience and current customers. It requires experimentation and then a deep dive into what reached and resonated with your audience so you can keep those elements in mind for your future campaigns and hone in on the aspects of what you do that matters most to those people.
Now that you know about the categories and types of market research, let's review how you can conduct your market research .
Here's how to do market research step-by-step.
How to Do Market Research
- Define your buyer persona.
- Identify a persona group to engage.
- Prepare research questions for your market research participants.
- List your primary competitors.
- Summarize your findings.
1. Define your buyer persona.
Before you dive into how customers in your industry make buying decisions, you must first understand who they are.
This is where your buyer personas come in handy. Buyer personas — sometimes referred to as marketing personas — are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers.
Use a free tool to create a buyer persona that your entire company can use to market, sell, and serve better.
They help you visualize your audience, streamline your communications, and inform your strategy. Some key characteristics you should be keen on including in your buyer persona are:
- Job title(s)
- Family size
- Major challenges
The idea is to use your persona as a guideline for how to effectively reach and learn about the real audience members in your industry. Also, you may find that your business lends itself to more than one persona — that's fine! You just need to be thoughtful about each specific persona when you're optimizing and planning your content and campaigns.
To get started with creating your personas, check out these free templates , as well as this helpful tool.
2. Identify a persona group to engage.
Now that you know who your buyer personas are, use that information to help you identify a group to engage to conduct your market research with — this should be a representative sample of your target customers so you can better understand their actual characteristics, challenges, and buying habits.
The group you identify to engage should also be made of people who recently made a purchase or purposefully decided not to make one. Here are some more guidelines and tips to help you get the right participants for your research.
How to Identify the Right People to Engage for Market Research
When choosing who to engage for your market research, start by focusing on people who have the characteristics that apply to your buyer persona. You should also:
Aim for 10 participants per buyer persona.
We recommend focusing on one persona, but if you feel it's necessary to research multiple personas, be sure to recruit a separate sample group for each one.
Select people who have recently interacted with you.
You may want to focus on people that have completed an evaluation within the past six months — or up to a year if you have a longer sales cycle or niche market. You'll be asking very detailed questions so it's important that their experience is fresh.
Free Focus Group Kit
Gather a mix of participants..
You want to recruit people who have purchased your product, purchased a competitor's product, and decided not to purchase anything at all. While your customers will be the easiest to find and recruit, sourcing information from those who aren't customers (yet!) will help you develop a balanced view of your market.
Here are some more details on how to select this mix of participants:
- Pull a list of customers who made a recent purchase. As we mentioned before, this is usually the easiest set of buyers to recruit. If you're using a CRM system with list segmentation capabilities , you can run a report of deals that closed within the past six months and filter it for the characteristics you're looking for. Otherwise, you can work with your sales team to get a list of appropriate accounts from them.
- Pull a list of customers who were in an active evaluation, but didn't make a purchase. You should get a mix of buyers who either purchased from a competitor or decided not to make a purchase. Again, you can get this list from your CRM or from whatever system your Sales team uses to track deals.
- Call for participants on social media. Try reaching out to the folks that follow you on social media, but decided not to buy from you. There's a chance that some of them will be willing to talk to you and tell you why they ultimately decided not to buy your product.
- Leverage your own network. Get the word out to your coworkers, former colleagues, and LinkedIn connections that you're conducting a study. Even if your direct connections don't qualify, some of them will likely have a coworker, friend, or family member who does.
- Choose an incentive. Time is precious, so you'll need to think about how you will motivate someone to spend 30-45 minutes on you and your study. On a tight budget? You can reward participants for free by giving them exclusive access to content. Another option? Send a simple handwritten 'thank you' note once the study is complete.
3. Prepare research questions for your market research participants.
The best way to make sure you get the most out of your conversations is to be prepared. You should always create a discussion guide — whether it's for a focus group, online survey, or a phone interview — to make sure you cover all of the top-of-mind questions and use your time wisely.
(Note: This is not intended to be a script. The discussions should be natural and conversational, so we encourage you to go out of order or probe into certain areas as you see fit.)
Your discussion guide should be in an outline format, with a time allotment and open-ended questions for each section.
Wait, all open-ended questions?
Yes — this is a golden rule of market research. You never want to "lead the witness" by asking yes and no questions, as that puts you at risk of unintentionally swaying their thoughts by leading with your own hypothesis. Asking open-ended questions also helps you avoid one-word answers (which aren't very helpful for you).
Example Outline of a 30-Minute Survey
Here's a general outline for a 30-minute survey for one B2B buyer. You can use these as talking points for an in-person interview, or as questions posed on a digital survey that can be made with tools like HubSpot's free online form builder , to administer as a survey to your target customers.
Background Information (5 Minutes)
Ask the buyer to give you a little background information (their title, how long they've been with the company, and so on). Then, ask a fun/easy question to warm things up (first concert attended, favorite restaurant in town, last vacation, etc.).
Remember, you want to get to know your buyers in pretty specific ways. You might be able to capture basic information such as age, location, and job title from your contact list, there are some personal and professional challenges you can really only learn by asking.
Here are some other key background questions to ask your target audience:
- Describe how your team is structured.
- Tell me about your personal job responsibilities.
- What are the team's goals and how do you measure them?
- What has been your biggest challenge in the past year?
Now, make a transition to acknowledge the specific purchase or interaction they made that led to you including them in the study. The next three stages of the buyer's journey will focus specifically on that purchase.
Awareness (5 Minutes)
Here, you want to understand how they first realized they had a problem that needed to be solved without getting into whether or not they knew about your brand yet.
- Think back to when you first realized you needed a [name the product/service category, but not yours specifically]. What challenges were you facing at the time?
- How did you know that something in this category could help you?
- How familiar were you with different options on the market?
Consideration (10 Minutes)
Now you want to get very specific about how and where the buyer researched potential solutions. Plan to interject to ask for more details.
- What was the first thing you did to research potential solutions? How helpful was this source?
- Where did you go to find more information?
If they don't come up organically, ask about search engines, websites visited, people consulted, and so on. Probe, as appropriate, with some of the following questions:
- How did you find that source?
- How did you use vendor websites?
- What words specifically did you search on Google?
- How helpful was it? How could it be better?
- Who provided the most (and least) helpful information? What did that look like?
- Tell me about your experiences with the sales people from each vendor.
Decision (10 Minutes)
- Which of the sources you described above was the most influential in driving your decision?
- What, if any, criteria did you establish to compare the alternatives?
- What vendors made it to the short list and what were the pros/cons of each?
- Who else was involved in the final decision? What role did each of these people play?
- What factors ultimately influenced your final purchasing decision?
Here, you want to wrap up and understand what could have been better for the buyer.
- Ask them what their ideal buying process would look like. How would it differ from what they experienced?
- Allow time for further questions on their end.
- Don't forget to thank them for their time and confirm their address to send a thank-you note or incentive.
4. List your primary competitors.
List your primary competitors — keep in mind listing the competition isn't always as simple as Company X versus Company Y.
Sometimes, a division of a company might compete with your main product or service, even though that company's brand might put more effort in another area.
For example, Apple is known for its laptops and mobile devices but Apple Music competes with Spotify over its music streaming service.
From a content standpoint, you might compete with a blog, YouTube channel, or similar publication for inbound website visitors — even though their products don't overlap with yours at all.
And a toothpaste company might compete with magazines like Health.com or Prevention on certain blog topics related to health and hygiene even though the magazines don't actually sell oral care products.
Identifying Industry Competitors
To identify competitors whose products or services overlap with yours, determine which industry or industries you're pursuing. Start high-level, using terms like education, construction, media & entertainment, food service, healthcare, retail, financial services, telecommunications, and agriculture.
The list goes on, but find an industry term that you identify with, and use it to create a list of companies that also belong to this industry. You can build your list the following ways:
- Review your industry quadrant on G2 Crowd: In certain industries, this is your best first step in secondary market research. G2 Crowd aggregates user ratings and social data to create "quadrants," where you can see companies plotted as contenders, leaders, niche, and high performers in their respective industries. G2 Crowd specializes in digital content, IT services, HR, ecommerce, and related business services.
- Download a market report: Companies like Forrester and Gartner offer both free and gated market forecasts every year on the vendors who are leading their industry. On Forrester's website, for example, you can select "Latest Research" from the navigation bar and browse Forrester's latest material using a variety of criteria to narrow your search. These reports are good assets to save on your computer.
- Search using social media: Believe it or not, social networks make great company directories if you use the search bar correctly. On LinkedIn, for example, select the search bar and enter the name of the industry you're pursuing. Then, under "More," select "Companies" to narrow your results to just the businesses that include this or a similar industry term on their LinkedIn profile.
Identifying Content Competitors
Search engines are your best friends in this area of secondary market research. To find the online publications with which you compete, take the overarching industry term you identified in the section above, and come up with a handful of more specific industry terms your company identifies with.
A catering business, for example, might generally be a "food service" company, but also consider itself a vendor in "event catering," "cake catering," "baked goods," and more.
Once you have this list, do the following:
- Google it: Don't underestimate the value in seeing which websites come up when you run a search on Google for the industry terms that describe your company. You might find a mix of product developers, blogs, magazines, and more.
- Compare your search results against your buyer persona: Remember the buyer persona you created during the primary research stage, earlier in this article? Use it to examine how likely a publication you found through Google could steal website traffic from you. If the content the website publishes seems like the stuff your buyer persona would want to see, it's a potential competitor, and should be added to your list of competitors.
After a series of similar Google searches for the industry terms you identify with, look for repetition in the website domains that have come up.
Examine the first two or three results pages for each search you conducted. These websites are clearly respected for the content they create in your industry, and should be watched carefully as you build your own library of videos, reports, web pages, and blog posts.
5. Summarize your findings.
Feeling overwhelmed by the notes you took? We suggest looking for common themes that will help you tell a story and create a list of action items.
To make the process easier, try using your favorite presentation software to make a report, as it will make it easy to add in quotes, diagrams, or call clips.
Feel free to add your own flair, but the following outline should help you craft a clear summary:
- Background: Your goals and why you conducted this study.
- Participants: Who you talked to. A table works well so you can break groups down by persona and customer/prospect.
- Executive Summary : What were the most interesting things you learned? What do you plan to do about it?
- Awareness: Describe the common triggers that lead someone to enter into an evaluation. (Quotes can be very powerful.)
- Consideration: Provide the main themes you uncovered, as well as the detailed sources buyers use when conducting their evaluation.
- Decision: Paint the picture of how a decision is really made by including the people at the center of influence and any product features or information that can make or break a deal.
- Action Plan: Your analysis probably uncovered a few campaigns you can run to get your brand in front of buyers earlier and/or more effectively. Provide your list of priorities, a timeline, and the impact it will have on your business.
Lastly, let's review a resource that can help you compile everything we just discussed in a simple yet effective way (plus, it's free!).
Market Research Report Template
Within a market research kit, there are a number of critical pieces of information for your business's success. Let's take a look at what those different kit elements are next.
Download HubSpot's free, editable market research report template here.
1. Five Forces Analysis Template
Use Porter's Five Forces Model to understand an industry by analyzing five different criteria and how high the power, threat, or rivalry in each area is — here are the five criteria:
- Competitive rivalry
- Threat of new entrants
- Threat of substitution
- Buyer power
- Supplier power
Download a free, editable Five Forces Analysis template here.
2. SWOT Analysis Template
A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis looks at your internal strengths and weaknesses, and your external opportunities and threats within the market.
A SWOT analysis highlights direct areas of opportunity your company can continue, build, focus on, and work to overcome.
Download a free, editable SWOT Analysis template here.
3. Market Survey Template
Both market surveys and focus groups ( which we'll cover in the next section ) help you uncover important information about your buyer personas , target audience, current customers, market, competition, and more (e.g. demand for your product or service, potential pricing, impressions of your branding, etc.).
Surveys should contain a variety of question types, like multiple choice, rankings, and open-ended responses. Ask quantitative and short-answer questions to save you time and to more easily draw conclusions. (Save longer questions that will warrant more detailed responses for your focus groups.)
Here are some categories of questions you should ask via survey:
- Demographic questions
- Business questions
- Competitor questions
- Industry questions
- Brand questions
- Product questions
Download a free, editable Market Survey template here.
4. Focus Group Template
Focus groups are an opportunity to collect in-depth, qualitative data from your real customers or members of your target audience. You should ask your focus group participants open-ended questions. While doing so, keep these tips top of mind:
- Set a limit for the number of questions you're asking (after all, they're open-ended).
- Provide participants with a prototype or demonstration.
- Ask participants how they feel about your price.
- Ask participants about your competition.
- Offer participants time at the end of the session for final comments, questions, or concerns.
Download a free, editable Focus Group template here.
Market Research Examples
1. disney uses kid-centric focus groups to test new characters and ideas..
The Walt Disney Company can spend millions crafting what its Animation Studio team believes is a worthwhile story, but it wisely focuses on its intended audience — children — when testing how well a character or topic performs.
A few times each year, Disney executives meet with preschoolers and kindergartners in kid-centric focus groups to get their opinions and insights on TV episodes, Disney characters, and more.
Why is this an effective market research strategy? Because children are ultimately the audience Disney hopes to delight — so collecting their feedback is invaluable to iterating on their existing content and ensuring it continues to meet its audiences' preferences.
2. KFC tested its meatless product in select markets before launching nationwide.
In 2019, KFC began developing and testing a new meatless version of its chicken. Rather than instantly rolling the product out nationwide, however, it started small: In select stores in the Atlanta, Georgia area .
This is an easy, effective example of conducting market research to determine how well a new product sells on a smaller scale before dedicating too many resources to it. If the meatless chicken flopped in Georgia, KFC would need to change the product before re-launching it to the market.
3. Yamaha conducted a survey to determine whether they should use knobs or sliding faders on the Montage keyboard.
When Yamaha, a Japanese-based corporation that produces a variety of products ranging from motorcycles to golf cars to musical instruments, began developing its new Montage keyboard, the team was unsure whether to use knobs or sliding faders on the product.
So Yamaha used Qualtrics to send a survey to their customers, and received 400 responses in a few hours.
Using survey feedback helped Yamaha ensure it was designing a product that exactly fit its audiences' preferences.
4. The Body Shop used social listening to determine how they should reposition brand campaigns to respond to what their customers cared most about.
The Body Shop has long been known for offering ethically sourced and natural products, and proudly touts "sustainability" as a core value.
To dive deeper into the sustainability subtopics that meant the most to their audiences, the team at The Body Shop tracked conversations and ultimately found their audiences cared a lot about refills.
Using this information helped the Body Shop team feel confident when relaunching their Refill Program across 400 stores globally in 2021 , and another 400 in 2022. Market research proved they were on the right track with their refill concept, and demonstrated increased efforts were needed to show Body Shop customers that the Body Shop cared about their customers' values.
Conduct Market Research to Grow Better
Conducting market research can be a very eye-opening experience. Even if you think you know your buyers pretty well, completing the study will likely uncover new channels and messaging tips to help improve your interactions.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in March 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
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SWOT Analysis: How To Do One [With Template & Examples]
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Total Addressable Market (TAM): What It Is & How You Can Calculate It
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Free Guide & Templates to Help Your Market Research
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Qualitative Market Research : The Complete Guide
What is Qualitative Market Research?
Qualitative market research methods and techniques, 4 types of qualitative market research testing methods, examples of qualitative market research.
- Ethical Considerations for Qualitative Market Research?
What are the Applications of Qualitative Market Research?
Advantages of qualitative market research, disadvantages of qualitative market research, online qualitative market research software- questionpro communities.
Qualitative market research is an open ended questions (conversational) based research method that heavily relies on the following market research methods : focus groups, in-depth interviews, and other innovative research methods. It is based on a small but highly validated sample size, usually consisting of 6 to 10 respondents .
The small size enables cost saving, while the “importance” of the samples and the lack of a defined questionnaire allows free and in-depth discussion and analysis of topics. Usually, the discussion is directed by the discretion of the interviewer or market researcher. You can use single ease questions . A single-ease question is a straightforward query that elicits a concise and uncomplicated response.
It is always better to have more heads than one. By canvassing a group of respondents for ideas and competence the quality of the data that is obtained is far more superior. This concept is known as crowdsourcing, derived from the two words “crowd” and “outsourcing”.
LEARN ABOUT: Perceived Value
Qualitative market research is most frequently used in political campaigning to understand voter perception of political candidates and their policies, interviewing business leaders and diving deeper into topics of interest, psychological profile studies and so on.
Qualitative market research is a relatively less expensive method to understand 2 critical factors in details – “what” the respondents think and feel about a certain topic and “why” they think and feel that way.
LEARN ABOUT: Market research industry
Why do we ask for an opinion? Any opinion for that matter? We ask because the person’s opinion matters to our decision making. None of the successful organizational decisions are made through mere guesses or speculations, but through real information gathered from real and valuable people.
Market research , in general, has played a critical role in inducing a thought process in present day’s organizational leaders where information and data dictate policies and decisions.
However, in market research design , not all information is just numbers and quantitative research . Some are just – conversational and qualitative!
LEARN ABOUT: Research Process Steps
Remember the super hit series Desperate Housewives? And do you remember the lovely housewives calling their friends over for a cup of tea or a couple of drinks to discuss the flashy new products they have bought?
It is not just a vague practice to flaunt these products but a thoughtful one because it matters what the friends think. Whether, they agree or disagree with the quality, brand and other features of those products. It matters what people think. Voila! Welcome to the world of qualitative market research.
Qualitative market research is all about understanding people’s beliefs and point of views and what they feel about the situation and what are the deciding factors that influence their behavior.
LEARN ABOUT: Marketing Insight
To conduct qualitative market research usually, one of these market research methods are used:
- Focus groups: As the name suggests, a group of people comprising usually of 6-10 members are brought together to discuss a particular product and its market strategies. Usually, experts in that particular field will comprise of the group. This group will have a moderator who will stimulate the discussion amongst the members to derive opinions. Since the focus groups are becoming a rare occurrence, platforms like Communities is on the rise.
- In-depth Interviews: It is usually a one-on-one interview method conducted with a group of people, either face to face or over the telephone. This method is more conversational and asking open-ended questions helps gather better data.
- Innovative research methods: In this method, the researcher can click photographs of the person who is answering the questions or can even record their videos. Observing these photographs or videos later would tell the researcher about their responses/reactions to various situations.
- Observations or “Shop-alongs”: Qualitative Observations or shop-alongs are now becoming an increasingly used research method in qualitative market research. This method allows the researcher to observe from afar and actually see how a consumer reacts to an actual product and purchase experience. This mitigates the scope to be dishonest with feedback or even forget about the shopping experience at a later stage.
LEARN ABOUT: Qualitative Interview
- Lifestyle Immersion: A newer method of conducting qualitative market research is attending a social or family event that user/s are at and collecting feedback. This helps with the getting feedback from users when they are in a comfortable environment. This is a great way to collect candid feedback in a comfortable environment.
- Online Focus Groups: With the ease of access to social media, online focus groups are becoming easier to manage. It is easy to recruit people to a focus group based study and even manage data collection and analytics.
- Ethnography: Ethnographic research is the process of being in an end user environment and seeing the user indulge with a product in a real-life example. This qualitative research method is best positioned to help create immediate and impactful product tweaks.
- Projective Techniques: Projective techniques are conducted by trained moderators who uncover hidden thoughts of the respondents. The questions or questioning methods are of an indirect nature and the moderator then deduces and uncovers underlying feelings that aren’t explicitly mentioned.
- Online Forums: Online forums is now becoming an increasingly preferred way of conducting qualitative market research. Members in a panel are brought onto a common platform to discuss a certain topic and the moderator ensures the discussion is driven in the direction of the outcome required. The moderator probes, asks the right questions and coerces to ensure a thorough discussion is conducted.
- Online Sentence Completion and Word Association: One of the easier but exhaustive nature of completing qualitative market research is to get respondents to match words that may be related to a product or even complete sentences online and this provides a deeper insight into the thoughts of the user.
Learn more about qualitative research methods
Here are the steps involved in conducting qualitative market research:
- Planning & Determining research objectives: Each research study needs to have a desired outcome at the outset so that the resources behind planning and executing are not wasted and it helps towards business agility.
- Deciding the method to conduct the research: Qualitative market research can be conducted in many ways. Depending on the nature of the study, target audience demographics , geographical location, a product that is being surveyed etc., would the survey method be utilized.
- Getting the right personnel for the job: Conducting a qualitative market research study requires moderators that know how to elicit and track responses from potential respondents.
- Purposive Sampling : In this method, the sample is created with a purpose in mind. The contours of the demographics are planned well in advance and users that fit this criterion are onboard for the market research survey.
- Quota Sampling: Quota sampling is the process of selecting samples from a given quota and the selected users are said to be a representative of the larger population. This can be a random sampling or put some qualifying criteria in.
- Snowball Sampling: Snowball sampling model is based on a reference model. Users that match criteria are asked to refer users that they are personally aware of that match the criteria.
- Survey design: The survey has to be designed in a way to elicit maximum value so that the responses received build towards robust and actionable feedback.
- Data collection: The data collection can be done via online or offline methods. It is imperative to collect the data in such a way that sense could be made of it and it could be used to analyze and report.
- Data Analysis: Data means nothing if it is not analyzed. Data that has been analyzed can give actionable insights for a product or brand to build on and this is imperative for a qualitative marketing research survey.
- Reporting: Once data has been collected and analyzed, it has to be reported in an easy to consume format to the relevant stakeholders as a milestone in the market research process.
LEARN ABOUT: Steps in Qualitative Research
There are 4 distinct types of qualitative market research testing methods that can be conducted. They are:
- Direct Exploration: This qualitative market research method is a no holds barred feedback method for a potential idea or product. This method is conducted where the users are told about the idea where no physical product is provided and all possible feedback is collected. This feedback is then collected and explored to form the basis of the new product.
- Monadic Testing: This method evaluates feedback by providing users with one single idea, concept, feature or product and asks for feedback. In this method, despite there being multiple concepts available, other designs are not shown. This method is important to elicit individual piece of feedback about a desired feature or concept.
- Sequential Monadic Testing: This testing method is similar to monadic testing because each concept, product or feature is shown one time. The only difference is that an alternate design to each concept is shown at the same time and feedback is collected on both from a user. This testing method is also called paired testing or paired nomadic testing.
- Discrete Choice Testing: Discrete choice testing is like paired nomadic testing but the only difference is that all choices are provided at once, not sequentially and the users are asked to pick one feature over another and then explain their choice.
LEARN ABOUT: User Experience Research
Successful businesses tend to use qualitative market research to keep pace with the ongoing market trend analysis , to make better-informed decisions and to achieve business excellence.
Whether your business is a start-up or a well-established entity, qualitative market research is a powerful method to identify your target audience and understand how they will respond to your product.
Before we dig deeper here are some of the real-time examples of qualitative market research case studies:
- AP, Norc and QuestionPro partner on geolocation exit polling app
- Washington State Ferry
Some examples of business expansion where qualitative market research plays a critical role by crowdsourcing concrete ideas for optimized decision-making :
- Branding : Many companies fail to understand how consumers perceive their brand or what is the brand positioning in comparison to their competitors. The research is typically done by conducting interviews with customers or organizing focus groups to collect feedback on marketing content and collaterals. In this way, the surveyor can explore different topics in-depth and get feedback from the respondents. Using this market research method, brands can gather information that can help them upscale and reposition their brand better in the market. LEARN ABOUT: Brand health
- Understanding the Consumer Behaviour: Sometimes, organizations/ companies/ entrepreneurs need more information about their consumer in order to place their product in a better manner. To do so they might need information about their gender, age, marital status etc. Qualitative market research helps them gather such information. For understanding the consumer behavior conducting in-depth interviews is the best option, as these interviews are conducted on one to one basis a decent amount of information can be collected.
- Measuring the reach of marketing activities: Many businesses go an extra mile to do a better job in promoting their brands. Here is where their marketing activities come into play. Market research can provide organizations with information about their marketing effectiveness by gathering first-hand information on how consumers look at their marketing message. This helps organizations maximize their marketing budget.
- Identifying new business opportunities: Market research helps organizations explore new opportunities leading to business expansion. By gathering data through market research through focus groups, organizations can pin a location, understand business dynamics, know their key competitors etc., to grow their business in the right direction.
- Getting insights on products: If a company comes up with a new product or looking to improve a current one, it is always better to take a market research in order to understand how acceptable is the product amongst the consumers. When a product comes to the market people have an opinion about its shape, size, utility, color, features etc. Qualitative market research through in-depth interviews will help gather systematic data that can be later used to modify or make the existing product better.
LEARN ABOUT: Market Evaluation
Employee Experience: Definition
Research ethics are as important as important as the ethics in any other research field. It is important to safeguard the participants’ interest. Like there is training and formal processes for researchers in other fields like in healthcare and medical research, market research is also governed by similar policies.
Due to the nature of qualitative market research, it is very important to have informed consent from a participant to be a part of the research study. This means that they are aware of basic information like:
- Nature of the research
- Expected time of completion
- If there are any sociological or physical risks or benefits
- Will a monetary or remuneration in other form be present
- Confidentiality protection
- How will the name and other personal details be used
- Any legal repercussions
Since this is a relatively less expensive and a more flexible method of market research there are a few applications of this market research methodology:
- It helps to understand the needs of the customers and their behavioral research pattern.
- What consumers think and perceive your product as.
- To understand the efficiency of your business planning and also to know if the strategies and planning that you put in place are working or not.
- What sort of marketing messages has a strong impact on the consumers and what just fall on deaf ears?
- Whether or not there is a demand for your product or services in the market?
LEARN ABOUT: Test Market Demand
Ultimately, qualitative market research is all about asking people to elaborate on their opinion to get a better insight into their behavioral pattern. It’s about understanding “Why” even before “What”.
LEARN ABOUT: Behavioral Targeting
- It helps you gather detailed information: One of the major advantages of this market research method is that it helps you collect details information instead of just focusing on the metrics of data. It helps you understand the subtleties of the information obtained thus enabling in-depth analysis .
- It’s adaptive in nature: This market research can adapt to the quality of information that is collected. If the available data seems not to be providing any results, the researcher can immediately seek to collect data in a new direction. This offers more flexibility to collect data.
- It operates within structures that are fluid: The data collected through this research method is based on observation and experiences, therefore, an experienced researcher can follow up with additional open ended questions if needed to extract more information from the respondents.
- Helps communicate brand proposition accurately: Through this market research method, the consumers can communicate with the brand effectively and vice versa. Any product terminology, product jargons etc are effectively communicated as this research method gives a chance to the brand and the consumer to express their needs and values freely, thus minimizing any miscommunication.
- It helps reduce customer churn : Consumer behaviors can change overnight, leaving a brand to wonder what went wrong. By conducting qualitative market research, brands have a chance to understand what consumers want and if they are fulfilling their needs or not, thereby reducing customer churn . Thus the brand-consumer relationship is maintained.
LEARN ABOUT: Market research vs marketing research
- It is time-consuming: Qualitative market research can take days, weeks, months and in some cases even years to complete. This isn’t good to get quick actionable insights. In some cases, the premise with which the survey began may be non-existent due to market evolution.
- It is expensive: Due to the time taken to complete, qualitative market research is extremely expensive. They are also expensive to conduct and create actionable insights because the data is humungous and people with certain research skill sets are required to manage the research process.
- It is subjective: What one user may think could be very different from another. Due to this, there is no standardization of responses. This also means that the lines between true and false blur out to the point that each response is to be considered at face value.
- No result verification: Data collected cannot be verified because in most cases in a qualitative market research, the data is based on personal perceptions. Hence for analysis, each opinion is considered as it is valid.
- Halo effect: Due to the highly subjective nature of the research, the preconceived notion of the moderator or the person conducting the analysis skews the reporting of the research. It is human tendency to gravitate towards what’s known and it is very tough to get rid of this research bias .
LEARN ABOUT: Self-Selection Bias
With the increasing competition in the business world, the extensive need for business research has also increased. QuestionPro Communities is a qualitative research platform that is interactive, where existing customers can submit their feedback and also stay well informed about the market research activities, helps researchers undertake studies to maximize sales and profits. Through the communities platform, researchers can carry out research to effectively target and understand their customers, understand what is the market trend, prevent future research problems and thereby reduce customer churn .
This qualitative research platform helps in developing businesses to know their competitors and help identify the latest trends in the market. To carry out a well-directed research, businesses need a software platform that can help researchers understand the mindset of the consumers, interpret their thoughts and collect meaningful qualitative data .
QuestionPro Communities is the World’s leading platform for conducting analytics powered qualitative method . This online qualitative market research software helps researchers save their time, using niche technology like text analysis , where computers are used to extract worthwhile information from human language in an efficient manner, increase flexibility and improve the validity of qualitative research questions . This online platform help researchers reduce manual and clerical work.
QuestionPro Communities Qualitative Market Research Tools Includes:
The online qualitative research software and tool, Discussions, allows a researcher to invite respondents to a community discussion session and moderate the focus group online. This can also be done live at a specific time that is convenient to the researcher and offer the users the flexibility to post responses when they login to their community. Invitations can be sent out well in advance to a specific target group the researcher would like to gather feedback from.
In case you are looking for respondents to share their ideas and allow others to analyze and offer a feedback and vote on the existing submissions, then this is a great tool to manage and present your results to the key stakeholders.
In this online community, you can submit topics, cast your vote in the existing posts and add comments or feedback instantly.
QuestionPro Communities is the only panel management and discussion platform that offers a seamless mobile communities experience. When it comes to engagement, how you reach respondents matter! Go mobile and take Discussions, Topics, and Idea Board anywhere your respondents go.
Feel free to explore our latest blog discussing practical examples of qualitative data in education – a valuable resource to deepen your insights into student experiences and learning dynamics. Why not give it a read and discover fresh perspectives for enhancing educational practices?
Learn about the other market research method: Quantitative Market Research
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How to Write a Market Research Plan (+ Free Template)
Chris martin, is your sample ample common issues and how to avo....
Good sampling doesn’t guarantee success, but a poor sample will guarantee failure.
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A market research plan, similar to a brief, is a vital document that details important information about your market research project. Though it is often an overlooked step of the market research process , an effective plan is often a critical factor in determining whether or not your market research efforts are successful.
Why? Because a well-thought through plan, more so than objectives alone, can be a vital instrument in focusing your investment. It ensures you know, ahead of the commencement date, the timeline, budget and desired outcomes from the project. It can even be used as a tool for receiving quicker sign-off from management when embarking on a new venture.
But it’s also important to remember that the research plan is not just for your team. To make full use of this document, it should be written in a way that can be distributed to agency partners as well – ensuring that your insight team and specialist partners are all working towards the same goal.
Tips for Crafting a Successful Plan
The first rule of writing a successful market research plan is to keep it short. The perfect length is between 1-2 pages, but as an absolute maximum try to ensure that it never exceeds 3. This will give you enough space to explain the background, scope and practicalities of the project while ensuring it is concise enough to be read in full. Throughout these few short pages, the tone of your plan should be informative. Remember that you are outlining information that you already know.
Write in a way that holistically encompasses all aspects of the project. Throughout the duration of your scripting, data collection, analysis and reporting stages of your project you should always be referring back to this document in order to remain focused. As any researcher knows, one of the biggest challenges in any research project is staying true to your original objectives.
With both exploratory and confirmatory research alike, new information is likely to arise which may spark other ideas or bring light to previously unknown issues. Remember these, but set them aside for further investigation at a later date. Travelling too far down the rabbit hole is the quickest way to overspend and under deliver on your original goal.
The 10 Elements of the Best Research Plans
First, let me preface this with a reminder: every project is different. A long term co-creation community will have different needs and requirements to a customer feedback survey or ad testing project. However, despite this – it is important to give equal consideration to all projects, and plan each with the same high degree of meticulous care. With this in mind, these are the 10 key aspects we recommend that all research plans should include:
Use this first section to outline the background to the problem that you are attempting to solve. Include background information on the business to provide context, as well as the circumstances that have led to the need for research. Overviews should be limited to 200 words at most, with most of the word count dedicated to the business circumstances & challenges surrounding the research.
Arguably the most important aspect of the entire document, objectives should be in bullet point format. List 3-5 of the decisions or initiatives that the research will inform – this will become the remit of the project. Below are a few examples of both well and poorly written objectives:
Well written research objectives:
- Understand the channels in which our customers are most comfortable shopping, in order to decide which should be prioritised in the 2017 Q1 budget
- Develop an active co-creation community that contributes 2 user-generated product improvements for testing to the R & D team per month
- Learn what is leading to an increase in customer churn so that a new retention strategy can be put in place within 12 weeks
Poorly written research objectives:
- Survey 1,000 potential customers to find out how our products can be improved
- Develop a panel of employees that are able to provide answers to research questions on an ad-hoc basis
- Learn how our company is perceived in comparison to competitors and how we can stand out in the marketplace
3. Deliverable outcomes
This section acts as a list what you expect to be produced at the end of the project. This can include, but is not limited to: a target number of responses you expect to receive, descriptions of how the data should be presented and the extent to which the data will be used to inform future decisions. In long term projects such as panels or communities, this may include a target for the amount of decisions that research is expected to inform and/or a pipeline for new ideas in exploratory studies.
4. Target audience
Different to sample, your target audience describes the population that you wish to research. This can be defined by a number of factors depending on the nature of your project. Some of the most common include: demographics, psychographics, life stages and company/ product interaction.
5. Sample plan
The sample plan should be used to indicate the amount of participants you wish to research, as well as a breakdown of each group. This will be affected by the choice to use qualitative, quantitative or multi-method approaches, as well as the estimated size of the target population.
6. Research Methods
List the different research methods that you plan to use in your project. This will be used by your team and agency partners to ensure that the insight you need comes from the most appropriate tools. Be sure to include any non-traditional methods you plan to use as well – it’s important that your team are aware of how data will be captured, even if it is being gathered by an experimental technique.
These usually take the form of a Gantt chart, but can vary depending on the scope and length of your project. Try to break down tasks as much as possible but be wary of dependencies within your chart. Be sure to schedule enough time in case some research tasks over-run or response rates are lower than expected.
Perhaps the most dreaded aspect of any research plan, budgeting is never easy. But by providing a breakdown of costs and outlining which elements of the project require most investment, a well-planned budget can be a benefit rather than a hurdle.
9 & 10. Ethical and Further considerations
Finally, you should outline any ethical/ other considerations or issues that may arise throughout the course of your project. Whether these are as simple as a conflict of interest or a concern about supplier relationships – this is your chance to address any problems that may arise before they do.
Free Market Research Plan Template
Use this link to download our free market research plan template . The template comes complete with each of the sections outlined above, with instructions on usage and tips on how to make the most out of it. Currently available in .docx format, please email chris.mar[email protected] if you have any problems with the download.
What do you believe should be included in a successful market research plan? Share your advice with us in the comments below and join the conversation.
We are The Insights Empowerment Company. We help research, product and marketing teams drive informed decisions with efficient, scalable & impactful insight.
About Chris Martin
Chris is an experienced executive and marketing strategist in the insight and technology sectors. He also hosts our MRX Lab podcast.
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- 6.3 Steps in a Successful Marketing Research Plan
- 1 Unit Introduction
- In the Spotlight
- 1.1 Marketing and the Marketing Process
- 1.2 The Marketing Mix and the 4Ps of Marketing
- 1.3 Factors Comprising and Affecting the Marketing Environment
- 1.4 Evolution of the Marketing Concept
- 1.5 Determining Consumer Needs and Wants
- 1.6 Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- 1.7 Ethical Marketing
- Chapter Summary
- Applied Marketing Knowledge: Discussion Questions
- Critical Thinking Exercises
- Building Your Personal Brand
- What Do Marketers Do?
- Marketing Plan Exercise
- Closing Company Case
- 2.1 Developing a Strategic Plan
- 2.2 The Role of Marketing in the Strategic Planning Process
- 2.3 Purpose and Structure of the Marketing Plan
- 2.4 Marketing Plan Progress Using Metrics
- 2.5 Ethical Issues in Developing a Marketing Strategy
- 2 Unit Introduction
- 3.1 Understanding Consumer Markets and Buying Behavior
- 3.2 Factors That Influence Consumer Buying Behavior
- 3.3 The Consumer Purchasing Decision Process
- 3.4 Ethical Issues in Consumer Buying Behavior
- 4.1 The Business-to-Business (B2B) Market
- 4.2 Buyers and Buying Situations in a B2B Market
- 4.3 Major Influences on B2B Buyer Behavior
- 4.4 Stages in the B2B Buying Process
- 4.5 Ethical Issues in B2B Marketing
- 5.1 Market Segmentation and Consumer Markets
- 5.2 Segmentation of B2B Markets
- 5.3 Segmentation of International Markets
- 5.4 Essential Factors in Effective Market Segmentation
- 5.5 Selecting Target Markets
- 5.6 Product Positioning
- 5.7 Ethical Concerns and Target Marketing
- 6.1 Marketing Research and Big Data
- 6.2 Sources of Marketing Information
- 6.4 Ethical Issues in Marketing Research
- 7.1 The Global Market and Advantages of International Trade
- 7.2 Assessment of Global Markets for Opportunities
- 7.3 Entering the Global Arena
- 7.4 Marketing in a Global Environment
- 7.5 Ethical Issues in the Global Marketplace
- 8.1 Strategic Marketing: Standardization versus Adaptation
- 8.2 Diversity and Inclusion Marketing
- 8.3 Multicultural Marketing
- 8.4 Marketing to Hispanic, Black, and Asian Consumers
- 8.5 Marketing to Sociodemographic Groups
- 8.6 Ethical Issues in Diversity Marketing
- 3 Unit Introduction
- 9.1 Products, Services, and Experiences
- 9.2 Product Items, Product Lines, and Product Mixes
- 9.3 The Product Life Cycle
- 9.4 Marketing Strategies at Each Stage of the Product Life Cycle
- 9.5 Branding and Brand Development
- 9.6 Forms of Brand Development, Brand Loyalty, and Brand Metrics
- 9.7 Creating Value through Packaging and Labeling
- 9.8 Environmental Concerns Regarding Packaging
- 9.9 Ethical Issues in Packaging
- 10.1 New Products from a Customer’s Perspective
- 10.2 Stages of the New Product Development Process
- 10.3 The Use of Metrics in Evaluating New Products
- 10.4 Factors Contributing to the Success or Failure of New Products
- 10.5 Stages in the Consumer Adoption Process for New Products
- 10.6 Ethical Considerations in New Product Development
- 11.1 Classification of Services
- 11.2 The Service-Profit Chain Model and the Service Marketing Triangle
- 11.3 The Gap Model of Service Quality
- 11.4 Ethical Considerations in Providing Services
- 12.1 Pricing and Its Role in the Marketing Mix
- 12.2 The Five Critical Cs of Pricing
- 12.3 The Five-Step Procedure for Establishing Pricing Policy
- 12.4 Pricing Strategies for New Products
- 12.5 Pricing Strategies and Tactics for Existing Products
- 12.6 Ethical Considerations in Pricing
- 13.1 The Promotion Mix and Its Elements
- 13.2 The Communication Process
- 13.3 Integrated Marketing Communications
- 13.4 Steps in the IMC Planning Process
- 13.5 Ethical Issues in Marketing Communication
- 14.1 Advertising in the Promotion Mix
- 14.2 Major Decisions in Developing an Advertising Plan
- 14.3 The Use of Metrics to Measure Advertising Campaign Effectiveness
- 14.4 Public Relations and Its Role in the Promotion Mix
- 14.5 The Advantages and Disadvantages of Public Relations
- 14.6 Ethical Concerns in Advertising and Public Relations
- 15.1 Personal Selling and Its Role in the Promotion Mix
- 15.2 Classifications of Salespeople Involved in Personal Selling
- 15.3 Steps in the Personal Selling Process
- 15.4 Management of the Sales Force
- 15.5 Sales Promotion and Its Role in the Promotion Mix
- 15.6 Main Types of Sales Promotion
- 15.7 Ethical Issues in Personal Selling and Sales Promotion
- 16.1 Traditional Direct Marketing
- 16.2 Social Media and Mobile Marketing
- 16.3 Metrics Used to Evaluate the Success of Online Marketing
- 16.4 Ethical Issues in Digital Marketing and Social Media
- 17.1 The Use and Value of Marketing Channels
- 17.2 Types of Marketing Channels
- 17.3 Factors Influencing Channel Choice
- 17.4 Managing the Distribution Channel
- 17.5 The Supply Chain and Its Functions
- 17.6 Logistics and Its Functions
- 17.7 Ethical Issues in Supply Chain Management
- 18.1 Retailing and the Role of Retailers in the Distribution Channel
- 18.2 Major Types of Retailers
- 18.3 Retailing Strategy Decisions
- 18.4 Recent Trends in Retailing
- 18.5 Wholesaling
- 18.6 Recent Trends in Wholesaling
- 18.7 Ethical Issues in Retailing and Wholesaling
- 19.1 Sustainable Marketing
- 19.2 Traditional Marketing versus Sustainable Marketing
- 19.3 The Benefits of Sustainable Marketing
- 19.4 Sustainable Marketing Principles
- 19.5 Purpose-Driven Marketing
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
- 1 Identify and describe the steps in a marketing research plan.
- 2 Discuss the different types of data research.
- 3 Explain how data is analyzed.
- 4 Discuss the importance of effective research reports.
Define the Problem
There are seven steps to a successful marketing research project (see Figure 6.3 ). Each step will be explained as we investigate how a marketing research project is conducted.
The first step, defining the problem, is often a realization that more information is needed in order to make a data-driven decision. Problem definition is the realization that there is an issue that needs to be addressed. An entrepreneur may be interested in opening a small business but must first define the problem that is to be investigated. A marketing research problem in this example is to discover the needs of the community and also to identify a potentially successful business venture.
Many times, researchers define a research question or objectives in this first step. Objectives of this research study could include: identify a new business that would be successful in the community in question, determine the size and composition of a target market for the business venture, and collect any relevant primary and secondary data that would support such a venture. At this point, the definition of the problem may be “Why are cat owners not buying our new cat toy subscription service?”
Additionally, during this first step we would want to investigate our target population for research. This is similar to a target market, as it is the group that comprises the population of interest for the study. In order to have a successful research outcome, the researcher should start with an understanding of the problem in the current situational environment.
Develop the Research Plan
Step two is to develop the research plan. What type of research is necessary to meet the established objectives of the first step? How will this data be collected? Additionally, what is the time frame of the research and budget to consider? If you must have information in the next week, a different plan would be implemented than in a situation where several months were allowed. These are issues that a researcher should address in order to meet the needs identified.
Research is often classified as coming from one of two types of data: primary and secondary. Primary data is unique information that is collected by the specific researcher with the current project in mind. This type of research doesn’t currently exist until it is pulled together for the project. Examples of primary data collection include survey, observation, experiment, or focus group data that is gathered for the current project.
Secondary data is any research that was completed for another purpose but can be used to help inform the research process. Secondary data comes in many forms and includes census data, journal articles, previously collected survey or focus group data of related topics, and compiled company data. Secondary data may be internal, such as the company’s sales records for a previous quarter, or external, such as an industry report of all related product sales. Syndicated data , a type of external secondary data, is available through subscription services and is utilized by many marketers. As you can see in Table 6.1 , primary and secondary data features are often opposite—the positive aspects of primary data are the negative side of secondary data.
There are four research types that can be used: exploratory, descriptive, experimental, and ethnographic research designs (see Figure 6.4 ). Each type has specific formats of data that can be collected. Qualitative research can be shared through words, descriptions, and open-ended comments. Qualitative data gives context but cannot be reduced to a statistic. Qualitative data examples are categorical and include case studies, diary accounts, interviews, focus groups, and open-ended surveys. By comparison, quantitative data is data that can be reduced to number of responses. The number of responses to each answer on a multiple-choice question is quantitative data. Quantitative data is numerical and includes things like age, income, group size, and height.
Exploratory research is usually used when additional general information in desired about a topic. When in the initial steps of a new project, understanding the landscape is essential, so exploratory research helps the researcher to learn more about the general nature of the industry. Exploratory research can be collected through focus groups, interviews, and review of secondary data. When examining an exploratory research design, the best use is when your company hopes to collect data that is generally qualitative in nature. 7
For instance, if a company is considering a new service for registered users but is not quite sure how well the new service will be received or wants to gain clarity of exactly how customers may use a future service, the company can host a focus group. Focus groups and interviews will be examined later in the chapter. The insights collected during the focus group can assist the company when designing the service, help to inform promotional campaign options, and verify that the service is going to be a viable option for the company.
Descriptive research design takes a bigger step into collection of data through primary research complemented by secondary data. Descriptive research helps explain the market situation and define an “opinion, attitude, or behavior” of a group of consumers, employees, or other interested groups. 8 The most common method of deploying a descriptive research design is through the use of a survey. Several types of surveys will be defined later in this chapter. Descriptive data is quantitative in nature, meaning the data can be distilled into a statistic, such as in a table or chart.
Again, descriptive data is helpful in explaining the current situation. In the opening example of LEGO , the company wanted to describe the situation regarding children’s use of its product. In order to gather a large group of opinions, a survey was created. The data that was collected through this survey allowed the company to measure the existing perceptions of parents so that alterations could be made to future plans for the company.
Experimental research , also known as causal research , helps to define a cause-and-effect relationship between two or more factors. This type of research goes beyond a correlation to determine which feature caused the reaction. Researchers generally use some type of experimental design to determine a causal relationship. An example is A/B testing, a situation where one group of research participants, group A, is exposed to one treatment and then compared to the group B participants, who experience a different situation. An example might be showing two different television commercials to a panel of consumers and then measuring the difference in perception of the product. Another example would be to have two separate packaging options available in different markets. This research would answer the question “Does one design sell better than the other?” Comparing that to the sales in each market would be part of a causal research study. 9
The final method of collecting data is through an ethnographic design. Ethnographic research is conducted in the field by watching people interact in their natural environment. For marketing research, ethnographic designs help to identify how a product is used, what actions are included in a selection, or how the consumer interacts with the product. 10
Examples of ethnographic research would be to observe how a consumer uses a particular product, such as baking soda. Although many people buy baking soda, its uses are vast. So are they using it as a refrigerator deodorizer, a toothpaste, to polish a belt buckle, or to use in baking a cake?
Select the Data Collection Method
Data collection is the systematic gathering of information that addresses the identified problem. What is the best method to do that? Picking the right method of collecting data requires that the researcher understand the target population and the design picked in the previous step. There is no perfect method; each method has both advantages and disadvantages, so it’s essential that the researcher understand the target population of the research and the research objectives in order to pick the best option.
Sometimes the data desired is best collected by watching the actions of consumers. For instance, how many cars pass a specific billboard in a day? What website led a potential customer to the company’s website? When are consumers most likely to use the snack vending machines at work? What time of day has the highest traffic on a social media post? What is the most streamed television program this week? Observational research is the collecting of data based on actions taken by those observed. Many data observations do not require the researched individuals to participate in the data collection effort to be highly valuable. Some observation requires an individual to watch and record the activities of the target population through personal observations .
Unobtrusive observation happens when those being observed aren’t aware that they are being watched. An example of an unobtrusive observation would be to watch how shoppers interact with a new stuffed animal display by using a one-way mirror. Marketers can identify which products were handled more often while also determining which were ignored.
Other methods can use technology to collect the data instead. Instances of mechanical observation include the use of vehicle recorders, which count the number of vehicles that pass a specific location. Computers can also assess the number of shoppers who enter a store, the most popular entry point for train station commuters, or the peak time for cars to park in a parking garage.
When you want to get a more in-depth response from research participants, one method is to complete a one-on-one interview . One-on-one interviews allow the researcher to ask specific questions that match the respondent’s unique perspective as well as follow-up questions that piggyback on responses already completed. An interview allows the researcher to have a deeper understanding of the needs of the respondent, which is another strength of this type of data collection. The downside of personal interviews it that a discussion can be very time-consuming and results in only one respondent’s answers. Therefore, in order to get a large sample of respondents, the interview method may not be the most efficient method.
Taking the benefits of an interview and applying them to a small group of people is the design of a focus group . A focus group is a small number of people, usually 8 to 12, who meet the sample requirements. These individuals together are asked a series of questions where they are encouraged to build upon each other’s responses, either by agreeing or disagreeing with the other group members. Focus groups are similar to interviews in that they allow the researcher, through a moderator, to get more detailed information from a small group of potential customers (see Figure 6.5 ).
Link to Learning
Focus groups are a common method for gathering insights into consumer thinking and habits. Companies will use this information to develop or shift their initiatives. The best way to understand a focus group is to watch a few examples or explanations. TED-Ed has this video that explains how focus groups work.
You might be asking when it is best to use a focus group or a survey. Learn the differences, the pros and cons of each, and the specific types of questions you ask in both situations in this article .
Preparing for a focus group is critical to success. It requires knowing the material and questions while also managing the group of people. Watch this video to learn more about how to prepare for a focus group and the types of things to be aware of.
One of the benefits of a focus group over individual interviews is that synergy can be generated when a participant builds on another’s ideas. Additionally, for the same amount of time, a researcher can hear from multiple respondents instead of just one. 11 Of course, as with every method of data collection, there are downsides to a focus group as well. Focus groups have the potential to be overwhelmed by one or two aggressive personalities, and the format can discourage more reserved individuals from speaking up. Finally, like interviews, the responses in a focus group are qualitative in nature and are difficult to distill into an easy statistic or two.
Combining a variety of questions on one instrument is called a survey or questionnaire . Collecting primary data is commonly done through surveys due to their versatility. A survey allows the researcher to ask the same set of questions of a large group of respondents. Response rates of surveys are calculated by dividing the number of surveys completed by the total number attempted. Surveys are flexible and can collect a variety of quantitative and qualitative data. Questions can include simplified yes or no questions, select all that apply, questions that are on a scale, or a variety of open-ended types of questions. There are four types of surveys (see Table 6.2 ) we will cover, each with strengths and weaknesses defined.
Let’s start off with mailed surveys —surveys that are sent to potential respondents through a mail service. Mailed surveys used to be more commonly used due to the ability to reach every household. In some instances, a mailed survey is still the best way to collect data. For example, every 10 years the United States conducts a census of its population (see Figure 6.6 ). The first step in that data collection is to send every household a survey through the US Postal Service (USPS). The benefit is that respondents can complete and return the survey at their convenience. The downside of mailed surveys are expense and timeliness of responses. A mailed survey requires postage, both when it is sent to the recipient and when it is returned. That, along with the cost of printing, paper, and both sending and return envelopes, adds up quickly. Additionally, physically mailing surveys takes time. One method of reducing cost is to send with bulk-rate postage, but that slows down the delivery of the survey. Also, because of the convenience to the respondent, completed surveys may be returned several weeks after being sent. Finally, some mailed survey data must be manually entered into the analysis software, which can cause delays or issues due to entry errors.
Phone surveys are completed during a phone conversation with the respondent. Although the traditional phone survey requires a data collector to talk with the participant, current technology allows for computer-assisted voice surveys or surveys to be completed by asking the respondent to push a specific button for each potential answer. Phone surveys are time intensive but allow the respondent to ask questions and the surveyor to request additional information or clarification on a question if warranted. Phone surveys require the respondent to complete the survey simultaneously with the collector, which is a limitation as there are restrictions for when phone calls are allowed. According to Telephone Consumer Protection Act , approved by Congress in 1991, no calls can be made prior to 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. in the recipient’s time zone. 12 Many restrictions are outlined in this original legislation and have been added to since due to ever-changing technology.
In-person surveys are when the respondent and data collector are physically in the same location. In-person surveys allow the respondent to share specific information, ask questions of the surveyor, and follow up on previous answers. Surveys collected through this method can take place in a variety of ways: through door-to-door collection, in a public location, or at a person’s workplace. Although in-person surveys are time intensive and require more labor to collect data than some other methods, in some cases it’s the best way to collect the required data. In-person surveys conducted through a door-to-door method is the follow-up used for the census if respondents do not complete the mailed survey. One of the downsides of in-person surveys is the reluctance of potential respondents to stop their current activity and answer questions. Furthermore, people may not feel comfortable sharing private or personal information during a face-to-face conversation.
Electronic surveys are sent or collected through digital means and is an opportunity that can be added to any of the above methods as well as some new delivery options. Surveys can be sent through email, and respondents can either reply to the email or open a hyperlink to an online survey (see Figure 6.7 ). Additionally, a letter can be mailed that asks members of the survey sample to log in to a website rather than to return a mailed response. Many marketers now use links, QR codes, or electronic devices to easily connect to a survey. Digitally collected data has the benefit of being less time intensive and is often a more economical way to gather and input responses than more manual methods. A survey that could take months to collect through the mail can be completed within a week through digital means.
Design the Sample
Although you might want to include every possible person who matches your target market in your research, it’s often not a feasible option, nor is it of value. If you did decide to include everyone, you would be completing a census of the population. Getting everyone to participate would be time-consuming and highly expensive, so instead marketers use a sample , whereby a portion of the whole is included in the research. It’s similar to the samples you might receive at the grocery store or ice cream shop; it isn’t a full serving, but it does give you a good taste of what the whole would be like.
So how do you know who should be included in the sample? Researchers identify parameters for their studies, called sample frames . A sample frame for one study may be college students who live on campus; for another study, it may be retired people in Dallas, Texas, or small-business owners who have fewer than 10 employees. The individual entities within the sampling frame would be considered a sampling unit . A sampling unit is each individual respondent that would be considered as matching the sample frame established by the research. If a researcher wants businesses to participate in a study, then businesses would be the sampling unit in that case.
The number of sampling units included in the research is the sample size . Many calculations can be conducted to indicate what the correct size of the sample should be. Issues to consider are the size of the population, the confidence level that the data represents the entire population, the ease of accessing the units in the frame, and the budget allocated for the research.
There are two main categories of samples: probability and nonprobability (see Figure 6.8 ). Probability samples are those in which every member of the sample has an identified likelihood of being selected. Several probability sample methods can be utilized. One probability sampling technique is called a simple random sample , where not only does every person have an identified likelihood of being selected to be in the sample, but every person also has an equal chance of exclusion. An example of a simple random sample would be to put the names of all members of a group into a hat and simply draw out a specific number to be included. You could say a raffle would be a good example of a simple random sample.
Another probability sample type is a stratified random sample , where the population is divided into groups by category and then a random sample of each category is selected to participate. For instance, if you were conducting a study of college students from your school and wanted to make sure you had all grade levels included, you might take the names of all students and split them into different groups by grade level—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior. Then, from those categories, you would draw names out of each of the pools, or strata.
A nonprobability sample is a situation in which each potential member of the sample has an unknown likelihood of being selected in the sample. Research findings that are from a nonprobability sample cannot be applied beyond the sample. Several examples of nonprobability sampling are available to researchers and include two that we will look at more closely: convenience sampling and judgment sampling.
The first nonprobability sampling technique is a convenience sample . Just like it sounds, a convenience sample is when the researcher finds a group through a nonscientific method by picking potential research participants in a convenient manner. An example might be to ask other students in a class you are taking to complete a survey that you are doing for a class assignment or passing out surveys at a basketball game or theater performance.
A judgment sample is a type of nonprobability sample that allows the researcher to determine if they believe the individual meets the criteria set for the sample frame to complete the research. For instance, you may be interested in researching mothers, so you sit outside a toy store and ask an individual who is carrying a baby to participate.
Collect the Data
Now that all the plans have been established, the instrument has been created, and the group of participants has been identified, it is time to start collecting data. As explained earlier in this chapter, data collection is the process of gathering information from a variety of sources that will satisfy the research objectives defined in step one. Data collection can be as simple as sending out an email with a survey link enclosed or as complex as an experiment with hundreds of consumers. The method of collection directly influences the length of this process. Conducting personal interviews or completing an experiment, as previously mentioned, can add weeks or months to the research process, whereas sending out an electronic survey may allow a researcher to collect the necessary data in a few days. 13
Analyze and Interpret the Data
Once the data has been collected, the process of analyzing it may begin. Data analysis is the distillation of the information into a more understandable and actionable format. The analysis itself can take many forms, from the use of basic statistics to a more comprehensive data visualization process. First, let’s discuss some basic statistics that can be used to represent data.
The first is the mean of quantitative data. A mean is often defined as the arithmetic average of values. The formula is:
A common use of the mean calculation is with exam scores. Say, for example, you have earned the following scores on your marketing exams: 72, 85, 68, and 77. To find the mean, you would add up the four scores for a total of 302. Then, in order to generate a mean, that number needs to be divided by the number of exam scores included, which is 4. The mean would be 302 divided by 4, for a mean test score of 75.5. Understanding the mean can help to determine, with one number, the weight of a particular value.
Another commonly used statistic is median. The median is often referred to as the middle number. To generate a median, all the numeric answers are placed in order, and the middle number is the median. Median is a common statistic when identifying the income level of a specific geographic region. 14 For instance, the median household income for Albuquerque, New Mexico, between 2015 and 2019 was $52,911. 15 In this case, there are just as many people with an income above the amount as there are below.
Mode is another statistic that is used to represent data of all types, as it can be used with quantitative or qualitative data and represents the most frequent answer. Eye color, hair color, and vehicle color can all be presented with a mode statistic. Additionally, some researchers expand on the concept of mode and present the frequency of all responses, not just identifying the most common response. Data such as this can easily be presented in a frequency graph, 16 such as the one in Figure 6.9 .
Additionally, researchers use other analyses to represent the data rather than to present the entirety of each response. For example, maybe the relationship between two values is important to understand. In this case, the researcher may share the data as a cross tabulation (see Figure 6.10 ). Below is the same data as above regarding social media use cross tabulated with gender—as you can see, the data is more descriptive when you can distinguish between the gender identifiers and how much time is spent per day on social media.
Not all data can be presented in a graphical format due to the nature of the information. Sometimes with qualitative methods of data collection, the responses cannot be distilled into a simple statistic or graph. In that case, the use of quotations, otherwise known as verbatims , can be used. These are direct statements presented by the respondents. Often you will see a verbatim statement when reading a movie or book review. The critic’s statements are used in part or in whole to represent their feelings about the newly released item.
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. For this reason, research results are often shown in a graphical format in which data can be taken in quickly, called an infographic .
Check out this infographic on what components make for a good infographic. As you can see, a good infographic needs four components: data, design, a story, and the ability to share it with others. Without all four pieces, it is not as valuable a resource as it could be. The ultimate infographic is represented as the intersection of all four.
Infographics are particularly advantageous online. Refer to this infographic on why they are beneficial to use online .
Prepare the Research Report
The marketing research process concludes by sharing the generated data and makes recommendations for future actions. What starts as simple data must be interpreted into an analysis. All information gathered should be conveyed in order to make decisions for future marketing actions. One item that is often part of the final step is to discuss areas that may have been missed with the current project or any area of further study identified while completing it. Without the final step of the marketing research project, the first six steps are without value. It is only after the information is shared, through a formal presentation or report, that those recommendations can be implemented and improvements made. The first six steps are used to generate information, while the last is to initiate action. During this last step is also when an evaluation of the process is conducted. If this research were to be completed again, how would we do it differently? Did the right questions get answered with the survey questions posed to the respondents? Follow-up on some of these key questions can lead to additional research, a different study, or further analysis of data collected.
Methods of Quantifying Marketing Research
One of the ways of sharing information gained through marketing research is to quantify the research . Quantifying the research means to take a variety of data and compile into a quantity that is more easily understood. This is a simple process if you want to know how many people attended a basketball game, but if you want to quantify the number of students who made a positive comment on a questionnaire, it can be a little more complicated. Researchers have a variety of methods to collect and then share these different scores. Below are some of the most common types used in business.
Is a customer aware of a product, brand, or company? What is meant by awareness? Awareness in the context of marketing research is when a consumer is familiar with the product, brand, or company. It does not assume that the consumer has tried the product or has purchased it. Consumers are just aware. That is a measure that many businesses find valuable. There are several ways to measure awareness. For instance, the first type of awareness is unaided awareness . This type of awareness is when no prompts for a product, brand, or company are given. If you were collecting information on fast-food restaurants, you might ask a respondent to list all the fast-food restaurants that serve a chicken sandwich. Aided awareness would be providing a list of products, brands, or companies and the respondent selects from the list. For instance, if you give a respondent a list of fast-food restaurants and ask them to mark all the locations with a chicken sandwich, you are collecting data through an aided method. Collecting these answers helps a company determine how the business location compares to those of its competitors. 17
Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
Have you ever been asked to complete a survey at the end of a purchase? Many businesses complete research on buying, returning, or other customer service processes. A customer satisfaction score , also known as CSAT, is a measure of how satisfied customers are with the product, brand, or service. A CSAT score is usually on a scale of 0 to 100 percent. 18 But what constitutes a “good” CSAT score? Although what is identified as good can vary by industry, normally anything in the range from 75 to 85 would be considered good. Of course, a number higher than 85 would be considered exceptional. 19
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and Customer Effort Score (CES)
Other metrics often used are a customer acquisition cost (CAC) and customer effort score (CES). How much does it cost a company to gain customers? That’s the purpose of calculating the customer acquisition cost. To calculate the customer acquisition cost , a company would need to total all expenses that were accrued to gain new customers. This would include any advertising, public relations, social media postings, etc. When a total cost is determined, it is divided by the number of new customers gained through this campaign.
The final score to discuss is the customer effort score , also known as a CES. The CES is a “survey used to measure the ease of service experience with an organization.” 20 Companies that are easy to work with have a better CES than a company that is notorious for being difficult. An example would be to ask a consumer about the ease of making a purchase online by incorporating a one-question survey after a purchase is confirmed. If a number of responses come back negative or slightly negative, the company will realize that it needs to investigate and develop a more user-friendly process.
It’s time to check your knowledge on the concepts presented in this section. Refer to the Answer Key at the end of the book for feedback.
- Defining the problem
- Developing the research plan
- Selecting a data collection method
- Designing the sample
- you are able to send it to all households in an area
- it is inexpensive
- responses are automatically loaded into the software
- the data comes in quickly
- Primary data
- Secondary data
- Secondary and primary data
- Professional data
- It shows how respondents answered two variables in relation to each other and can help determine patterns by different groups of respondents.
- By presenting the data in the form of a picture, the information is easier for the reader to understand.
- It is an easy way to see how often one answer is selected by the respondents.
- This analysis can used to present interview or focus group data.
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- Authors: Dr. Maria Gomez Albrecht, Dr. Mark Green, Linda Hoffman
- Publisher/website: OpenStax
- Book title: Principles of Marketing
- Publication date: Jan 25, 2023
- Location: Houston, Texas
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- Section URL: https://openstax.org/books/principles-marketing/pages/6-3-steps-in-a-successful-marketing-research-plan
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Market research & templates: a complete guide.
18 min read Interested in market research but need some templates to start with? In this guide, we unpack market research, survey planning best practice and share some of our best templates for brand, customer, product and employee research.
What is a market research template?
While you’re no doubt familiar with the concept of market research and how it can help you to reach your target audiences and improve your product or service , the real challenge is designing a market research plan that is conducive to excellent results.
All of this starts with the right market research template(s) to help you analyse specific target audiences, collect the right data and uncover insights that can drive actionable change .
In this article, we’re going to:
- talk about market research and its use cases,
- provide you with a standard template that allows you to plan your research,
- and share several other templates to help you with specific types of market research
You can also check out our free template library.
But first, let’s revisit market research.
What is market research?
Market research is the process of determining the viability of a new service or product through surveys and questionnaires with prospects and/or customers. It involves gathering information about market needs and prospect/customer preferences .
Through market research, you can discover and/or refine your target market, get opinions and feedback on what you provide to them and uncover further prospect/customer pain points and expectations of your service or product .
Market research can be conducted in-house, either by you and your research team, or through a third-party company that specialises in it (they will typically have their own research panels or be capable of creating a research panel to suit your requirements).
The four common types of market research
There are lots of different ways to conduct market research to collect customer data and feedback , test product concepts , and do brand research, but the four most common are:
The most commonly used form of market research, surveys are a form of qualitative research that asks respondents a series of open or closed-ended questions , delivered either as an on-screen questionnaire or email.
Surveys are incredibly popular because they’re cheap, easy to produce, and can capture data very quickly, leading to faster insights.
2) Focus groups
Why not bring together a carefully selected group of people in your target market using focus groups? Though more expensive and complex than surveys and interviews, focus groups can offer deeper insight into prospect and customer behaviour – from how users experience your products and services to what marketing messages really resonate with them.
Of course, as a market research method that’s reliant on a moderator to steer conversation, it can be subject to bias (as different moderators might have preferred questions or be more forceful) and if you cut corners (not asking all the necessary questions or making assumptions based on responses), the data could get skewed.
As if you were a fly-on-the-wall, the observation market research method can be incredibly powerful. Rather than interviewing or surveying users, you simply take notes while someone from your target market/target audience engages with your product . How are they using it? What are they struggling with? Do they look as though they have concerns?
Observing your target audience/target market in this fashion is a great alternative to the other more traditional methods on this list. It’s less expensive and far more natural as it isn’t guided by a moderator or a predefined set of questions. The only issue is that you can’t get feedback directly from the mouth of the user, so it’s worth combining this type of research with interviews, surveys, and/or focus groups.
Interviews allow for face-to-face discussions (both in-person and virtually), allowing for more natural conversations with participants.
For gleaning deeper insights (especially with non-verbal cues giving greater weight to opinions), there’s nothing better than face-to-face interviews. Any kind of interview will provide excellent information, helping you to better understand your prospects and target audience/target market.
Use cases for market research
When you want to understand your prospects and/or customers, but have no existing data to set a benchmark – or want to improve your products and services quickly – market research is often the go-to.
Market research (as mentioned above), helps you to discover how prospects and customers feel about your products and services, as well as what they would like to see .
But there are more use cases and benefits to market research than the above.
Reduce risk of product and business failure
With any new venture, there’s no guarantee that the new idea will be successful. As such, it’s up to you to establish the market’s appetite for your product or service. The easiest way to do this is through market research – you can understand the challenges prospects face and quickly identify where you can help. With the data from your market survey, you can then create a solution that addresses the needs and expectations of would-be customers.
Forecast future trends
Market research doesn’t just help you to understand the current market – it also helps you to forecast future needs. As you conduct your research and analyse the findings, you can identify trends – for example, how brands and businesses are adopting new technology to improve customer experiences or how sustainability is becoming a core focus for packaging. Whatever it is you’re looking to understand about the future of business in your market, comprehensive market research can help you to identify it.
Stay ahead of the competition
Understanding your market and what prospects and customers want from you will help to keep you ahead of the competition . The fact is that the top businesses frequently invest in market research to get an edge, and those that don’t tap into the insights of their audience are missing low-hanging fruit.
As well as helping you to stay in front, you can also use market research to identify gaps in the market, e.g. your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses . Just have participants answer questions about competitor products/services – or even use the products/services – and work out how you can refine your offerings to address these issues.
Plan more strategically
What’s the foundation of your business strategy? If it’s based on evidence, e.g. what people expect of your products and services, it’ll be much easier to deliver something that works. Rather than making assumptions about what you should do, market research gives you a clear, concrete understanding of what people want to see.
Check out our guide to market research for a more comprehensive breakdown.
How do you write a market research plan/template?
A market research plan is very similar to a brief in that it documents the most vital information and steps about your project. Consider it a blueprint that outlines your main objective (summary), key questions and outcomes, target audience and size, your timeline, budget, and other key variables.
Let’s talk about them in more detail.
Elements of a great market research plan
1) overview or summary.
Use the first section of your market research plan to outline the background to the problem that you are attempting to solve (this is usually your problem statement or problem question). Include background information on the study’s purpose and the business to provide context to those who would read the report, as well as the need for the research. Keep the overview simple and concise; focus on the most salient elements.
What is it that you hope to achieve with this survey? Your objectives are the most important part of the survey. Make sure to list 3-5 of the decisions or initiatives that the research will influence.
Understand the most-used channels for customer engagement and purchasing to decide where to prioritise marketing and sales budget in Q1 2022. Determine what’s causing customer churn at the later stages of the buyer journey and implement a new retention and sales strategy to address it.
Your objectives should be smart, that is: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.
3) Deliverables (or outcomes)
This section should focus on what you expect to have at the end of the project. How many responses are you looking for? How will the data be presented? Who will the data be shared with? (Stakeholders, executives) What are your next steps? Make sure you state how you will collect and analyse the data once it’s available.
Products such as Qualtrics CoreXM make this process fast and incredibly easy to do, drastically reducing the time to insights so you can make more meaningful changes, faster.
4) Target audience
Not to be confused with your market research sample, your target audience represents who you want to research. Of course, your sample may include ideal buyers from your target audience. Here you want to define the main variables or factors of your audience: demographic , age, location , product interaction, experience, and so on. It’s worth building out your buyer personas (if you haven’t already) and including a quick breakdown of them here.
5) Sample plan
How many participants do you want to research and what kind of groups do you want to reach? Depending on these two variables, you may have to use qualitative, quantitative , or multi-method approaches.
6) Research methods
What methods will you use in your market research project? The insights (and the granularity of those insights) will depend on the methods and tools you choose. For example, and as mentioned earlier, surveys are often the go-to for many organisations as they’re affordable and straightforward, but if you want to get more personal views from your respondents, one-to-one interviews might be more applicable. You might even want to take a hands-off approach and simply observe participants as they use your products, or try a combination of research methods. Make sure to outline what methods you will use as part of your research plan.
How long will your research project run? It’s worth putting together a Gantt chart to highlight key milestones in the project, along with dependencies, and to break down tasks as much as possible. Schedule in contingency time in case some tasks or research runs over – or you need more responses.
Set a budget for the overall program and list it in your plan. Though this might be the most difficult aspect of any research plan, it helps you to be more strategic about tasks and hold people accountable at each stage of the process. If costs go over, that’s good to know for future market research. If costs are lower than anticipated, you then have the opportunity to do further research or prop up other areas of the study.
9) Ethical concerns or conflicts of interest
One of the most important parts of your market research plan, you should highlight any ethical concerns. To begin with, it’s your duty to state whether or not responses will be kept confidential and anonymous as part of the study. It’s also important to allow participants to remain anonymous and ensure you protect their privacy at all times.
Another issue to consider is stereotyping. Any analysis of real populations needs to make approximations and place individuals into groups, but if conducted irresponsibly, stereotyping can lead to undesirable results.
Lastly, conflicts of interest – it may be that researchers have interests in the outcome of the project that lead to a personal advantage that might compromise the integrity of your market research project. You should clearly state in your market research report that any potential conflicts of interest are highlighted and addressed before continuing.
But I want a faster solution!
Well, there’s a quicker and far easier way to do all of the above and get the data you need – just use a market research survey template. In our next section, we’re going to share a whole list of templates that you can use.
Free market research survey templates
No matter what kind of research you want to conduct, we have templates that will remove the complexity of the task and empower you to get more from your data. Below we’ve compiled a list of templates for four key experience areas: Brand Equity , Customer , Employee , and Product .
All of our research templates are free. All you need to do is sign up for a free Qualtrics account to access them.
Brand experience market research templates:
- Logo testing : Collect feedback to help you evaluate and iterate on your logo designs and concepts
- Brand awareness : Track the level of brand awareness in your target market, including current and potential future customers
- Ad testing : Evaluate your consumers’ reaction to an advertisement so you know which campaigns to deploy before you invest
- A/B testing : Quickly and easily compare to versions or options in a study, whether it’s a design, headline, color palette or a mock-up of your latest ad campaign
Customer experience market research templates
- Student satisfaction : Gather feedback on how your institution is delivering on the student experience
- Net promoter score (NPS) : Measure customer loyalty and understand how they feel about your product or service using one of the world’s best-recognized metrics
- Customer satisfaction : Evaluate how satisfied your customers are with your company, including the products and services you provide, and how they are treated when they buy from you
- Customer service : Gain insights into the contact centre experience, so you can achieve and maintain optimum levels of customer experience (CX) performance
- Event feedback : Measure the effectiveness of your events and how well they meet attendee expectations so that you can continuously improve your offering
- IT help desk : Understand how satisfied your employees and customers are with your IT help desk experience
- Website suggestion box : Collect visitor feedback on how your website can be improved
- Website satisfaction : Find out how satisfied visitors are with your website’s design, usability, and performance
- Store purchase feedback : Capture customer experience data at the point of purchase to help you improve the in-store experience
- Online purchase feedback : Find out how well your online shopping experience performs against customer needs and expectations
Employee experience market research templates
- Employee satisfaction : Get an overview of your current employee experience
- Manager feedback : Improve your skills as a leader with valuable feedback from your team
- Employee engagement : Find out how employees find the current experience at your workplace with this entry-level engagement survey
- Employee exit interview : Understand why your employees are leaving and how they’ll speak about your company once they’re gone with this survey template
- Employee onboarding : Improve your onboarding program by understanding what’s working and what’s not
- Team event planning : Collect inputs from employees to plan a team event that works for everyone
- Meeting feedback : Check-in with team members after a meeting to see how well your company is running and what improvements can be made
- Interview feedback : Improve your candidate experience by gathering actionable insights about the interview process
- Employee suggestion box : Gather anonymous data to help address concerns and improve the employee experience in your organization
- Candidate experience : Improve your candidate experience to increase brand perception, offer acceptance rates, and hiring process efficiency with this single-touchpoint survey template
- Employee suggestion action : Take employee feedback a step further by working with your staff to quantify solutions based on their experience data
Product experience market research templates
- Product research : Evaluate your consumers’ reaction to a new product or product feature across every stage of the product development journey
- Pricing : Understand how to set the exact price point for your product or service, according to your target consumers
- Feature prioritisation : Compare and contrast product features using conjoint analysis to find the optimal mix for your customers
- Product package testing : Collect feedback on your product packaging to see how well it meets the needs and expectations of your customers
Armed with the right market research templates, getting the information you need across brand, product, customer and employee disciplines — as well as beyond — is significantly easier.
But if you want help putting together complex market research and scaling your in-house research team to get agile insights, check out our guide to building an agile research function.
Insights are more important than ever, especially during times of change, but building a great team takes a lot of time and money.
In our eBook, we’ll explain how you can:
- Scale your research team
- Build a smart partner strategy
- Ensure you have the right technology for market research and data analysis
Tackle your market research with our agile market research eBook
Market intelligence tools 10 min read, qualitative research questions 11 min read, primary vs secondary research 14 min read, business research methods 12 min read, ethnographic research 11 min read, business research 10 min read, qualitative research design 12 min read, request demo.
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How to do market research in 4 steps: a lean approach to marketing research
From pinpointing your target audience and assessing your competitive advantage, to ongoing product development and customer satisfaction efforts, market research is a practice your business can only benefit from.
Learn how to conduct quick and effective market research using a lean approach in this article full of strategies and practical examples.
A comprehensive (and successful) business strategy is not complete without some form of market research—you can’t make informed and profitable business decisions without truly understanding your customer base and the current market trends that drive your business.
In this article, you’ll learn how to conduct quick, effective market research using an approach called 'lean market research'. It’s easier than you might think, and it can be done at any stage in a product’s lifecycle.
How to conduct lean market research in 4 steps
What is market research, why is market research so valuable, advantages of lean market research, 4 common market research methods, 5 common market research questions, market research faqs.
We’ll jump right into our 4-step approach to lean market research. To show you how it’s done in the real world, each step includes a practical example from Smallpdf , a Swiss company that used lean market research to reduce their tool’s error rate by 75% and boost their Net Promoter Score® (NPS) by 1%.
Research your market the lean way...
From on-page surveys to user interviews, Hotjar has the tools to help you scope out your market and get to know your customers—without breaking the bank.
The following four steps and practical examples will give you a solid market research plan for understanding who your users are and what they want from a company like yours.
1. Create simple user personas
A user persona is a semi-fictional character based on psychographic and demographic data from people who use websites and products similar to your own. Start by defining broad user categories, then elaborate on them later to further segment your customer base and determine your ideal customer profile .
How to get the data: use on-page or emailed surveys and interviews to understand your users and what drives them to your business.
How to do it right: whatever survey or interview questions you ask, they should answer the following questions about the customer:
Who are they?
What is their main goal?
What is their main barrier to achieving this goal?
Pitfalls to avoid:
Don’t ask too many questions! Keep it to five or less, otherwise you’ll inundate them and they’ll stop answering thoughtfully.
Don’t worry too much about typical demographic questions like age or background. Instead, focus on the role these people play (as it relates to your product) and their goals.
How Smallpdf did it: Smallpdf ran an on-page survey for a couple of weeks and received 1,000 replies. They learned that many of their users were administrative assistants, students, and teachers.
Next, they used the survey results to create simple user personas like this one for admins:
Who are they? Administrative Assistants.
What is their main goal? Creating Word documents from a scanned, hard-copy document or a PDF where the source file was lost.
What is their main barrier to achieving it? Converting a scanned PDF doc to a Word file.
💡Pro tip: Smallpdf used Hotjar Surveys to run their user persona survey. Our survey tool helped them avoid the pitfalls of guesswork and find out who their users really are, in their own words.
You can design a survey and start running it in minutes with our easy-to-use drag and drop builder. Customize your survey to fit your needs, from a sleek one-question pop-up survey to a fully branded questionnaire sent via email.
We've also created 40+ free survey templates that you can start collecting data with, including a user persona survey like the one Smallpdf used.
2. Conduct observational research
Observational research involves taking notes while watching someone use your product (or a similar product).
Overt vs. covert observation
Overt observation involves asking customers if they’ll let you watch them use your product. This method is often used for user testing and it provides a great opportunity for collecting live product or customer feedback .
Covert observation means studying users ‘in the wild’ without them knowing. This method works well if you sell a type of product that people use regularly, and it offers the purest observational data because people often behave differently when they know they’re being watched.
Tips to do it right:
Record an entry in your field notes, along with a timestamp, each time an action or event occurs.
Make note of the users' workflow, capturing the ‘what,’ ‘why,’ and ‘for whom’ of each action.
Don’t record identifiable video or audio data without consent. If recording people using your product is helpful for achieving your research goal, make sure all participants are informed and agree to the terms.
Don’t forget to explain why you’d like to observe them (for overt observation). People are more likely to cooperate if you tell them you want to improve the product.
💡Pro tip: while conducting field research out in the wild can wield rewarding results, you can also conduct observational research remotely. Hotjar Recordings is a tool that lets you capture anonymized user sessions of real people interacting with your website.
Observe how customers navigate your pages and products to gain an inside look into their user behavior . This method is great for conducting exploratory research with the purpose of identifying more specific issues to investigate further, like pain points along the customer journey and opportunities for optimizing conversion .
With Hotjar Recordings you can observe real people using your site without capturing their sensitive information
How Smallpdf did it: here’s how Smallpdf observed two different user personas both covertly and overtly.
Observing students (covert): Kristina Wagner, Principle Product Manager at Smallpdf, went to cafes and libraries at two local universities and waited until she saw students doing PDF-related activities. Then she watched and took notes from a distance. One thing that struck her was the difference between how students self-reported their activities vs. how they behaved (i.e, the self-reporting bias). Students, she found, spent hours talking, listening to music, or simply staring at a blank screen rather than working. When she did find students who were working, she recorded the task they were performing and the software they were using (if she recognized it).
Observing administrative assistants (overt): Kristina sent emails to admins explaining that she’d like to observe them at work, and she asked those who agreed to try to batch their PDF work for her observation day. While watching admins work, she learned that they frequently needed to scan documents into PDF-format and then convert those PDFs into Word docs. By observing the challenges admins faced, Smallpdf knew which products to target for improvement.
“Data is really good for discovery and validation, but there is a bit in the middle where you have to go and find the human.”
3. Conduct individual interviews
Interviews are one-on-one conversations with members of your target market. They allow you to dig deep and explore their concerns, which can lead to all sorts of revelations.
Listen more, talk less. Be curious.
Act like a journalist, not a salesperson. Rather than trying to talk your company up, ask people about their lives, their needs, their frustrations, and how a product like yours could help.
Ask "why?" so you can dig deeper. Get into the specifics and learn about their past behavior.
Record the conversation. Focus on the conversation and avoid relying solely on notes by recording the interview. There are plenty of services that will transcribe recorded conversations for a good price (including Hotjar!).
Avoid asking leading questions , which reveal bias on your part and pushes respondents to answer in a certain direction (e.g. “Have you taken advantage of the amazing new features we just released?).
Don't ask loaded questions , which sneak in an assumption which, if untrue, would make it impossible to answer honestly. For example, we can’t ask you, “What did you find most useful about this article?” without asking whether you found the article useful in the first place.
Be cautious when asking opinions about the future (or predictions of future behavior). Studies suggest that people aren’t very good at predicting their future behavior. This is due to several cognitive biases, from the misguided exceptionalism bias (we’re good at guessing what others will do, but we somehow think we’re different), to the optimism bias (which makes us see things with rose-colored glasses), to the ‘illusion of control’ (which makes us forget the role of randomness in future events).
How Smallpdf did it: Kristina explored her teacher user persona by speaking with university professors at a local graduate school. She learned that the school was mostly paperless and rarely used PDFs, so for the sake of time, she moved on to the admins.
A bit of a letdown? Sure. But this story highlights an important lesson: sometimes you follow a lead and come up short, so you have to make adjustments on the fly. Lean market research is about getting solid, actionable insights quickly so you can tweak things and see what works.
💡Pro tip: to save even more time, conduct remote interviews using an online user research service like Hotjar Engage , which automates the entire interview process, from recruitment and scheduling to hosting and recording.
You can interview your own customers or connect with people from our diverse pool of 200,000+ participants from 130+ countries and 25 industries. And no need to fret about taking meticulous notes—Engage will automatically transcribe the interview for you.
4. Analyze the data (without drowning in it)
The following techniques will help you wrap your head around the market data you collect without losing yourself in it. Remember, the point of lean market research is to find quick, actionable insights.
A flow model is a diagram that tracks the flow of information within a system. By creating a simple visual representation of how users interact with your product and each other, you can better assess their needs.
You’ll notice that admins are at the center of Smallpdf’s flow model, which represents the flow of PDF-related documents throughout a school. This flow model shows the challenges that admins face as they work to satisfy their own internal and external customers.
An affinity diagram is a way of sorting large amounts of data into groups to better understand the big picture. For example, if you ask your users about their profession, you’ll notice some general themes start to form, even though the individual responses differ. Depending on your needs, you could group them by profession, or more generally by industry.
We wrote a guide about how to analyze open-ended questions to help you sort through and categorize large volumes of response data. You can also do this by hand by clipping up survey responses or interview notes and grouping them (which is what Kristina does).
“For an interview, you will have somewhere between 30 and 60 notes, and those notes are usually direct phrases. And when you literally cut them up into separate pieces of paper and group them, they should make sense by themselves.”
Pro tip: if you’re conducting an online survey with Hotjar, keep your team in the loop by sharing survey responses automatically via our Slack and Microsoft Team integrations. Reading answers as they come in lets you digest the data in pieces and can help prepare you for identifying common themes when it comes time for analysis.
Hotjar lets you easily share survey responses with your team
Customer journey map
A customer journey map is a diagram that shows the way a typical prospect becomes a paying customer. It outlines their first interaction with your brand and every step in the sales cycle, from awareness to repurchase (and hopefully advocacy).
The above customer journey map , created by our team at Hotjar, shows many ways a customer might engage with our tool. Your map will be based on your own data and business model.
📚 Read more: if you’re new to customer journey maps, we wrote this step-by-step guide to creating your first customer journey map in 2 and 1/2 days with free templates you can download and start using immediately.
Next steps: from research to results
So, how do you turn market research insights into tangible business results? Let’s look at the actions Smallpdf took after conducting their lean market research: first they implemented changes, then measured the impact.
Based on what Smallpdf learned about the challenges that one key user segment (admins) face when trying to convert PDFs into Word files, they improved their ‘PDF to Word’ conversion tool.
We won’t go into the details here because it involves a lot of technical jargon, but they made the entire process simpler and more straightforward for users. Plus, they made it so that their system recognized when you drop a PDF file into their ‘Word to PDF’ converter instead of the ‘PDF to Word’ converter, so users wouldn’t have to redo the task when they made that mistake.
In other words: simple market segmentation for admins showed a business need that had to be accounted for, and customers are happier overall after Smallpdf implemented an informed change to their product.
According to the Lean UX model, product and UX changes aren’t retained unless they achieve results.
Smallpdf’s changes produced:
A 75% reduction in error rate for the ‘PDF to Word’ converter
A 1% increase in NPS
Greater confidence in the team’s marketing efforts
"With all the changes said and done, we've cut our original error rate in four, which is huge. We increased our NPS by +1%, which isn't huge, but it means that of the users who received a file, they were still slightly happier than before, even if they didn't notice that anything special happened at all.”
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Market research (or marketing research) is any set of techniques used to gather information and better understand a company’s target market. This might include primary research on brand awareness and customer satisfaction or secondary market research on market size and competitive analysis. Businesses use this information to design better products, improve user experience, and craft a marketing strategy that attracts quality leads and improves conversion rates.
David Darmanin, one of Hotjar’s founders, launched two startups before Hotjar took off—but both companies crashed and burned. Each time, he and his team spent months trying to design an amazing new product and user experience, but they failed because they didn’t have a clear understanding of what the market demanded.
With Hotjar, they did things differently . Long story short, they conducted market research in the early stages to figure out what consumers really wanted, and the team made (and continues to make) constant improvements based on market and user research.
Without market research, it’s impossible to understand your users. Sure, you might have a general idea of who they are and what they need, but you have to dig deep if you want to win their loyalty.
Here’s why research matters:
Obsessing over your users is the only way to win. If you don’t care deeply about them, you’ll lose potential customers to someone who does.
Analytics gives you the ‘what’, while research gives you the ‘why’. Big data, user analytics , and dashboards can tell you what people do at scale, but only research can tell you what they’re thinking and why they do what they do. For example, analytics can tell you that customers leave when they reach your pricing page, but only research can explain why.
Research beats assumptions, trends, and so-called best practices. Have you ever watched your colleagues rally behind a terrible decision? Bad ideas are often the result of guesswork, emotional reasoning, death by best practices , and defaulting to the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion (HiPPO). By listening to your users and focusing on their customer experience , you’re less likely to get pulled in the wrong direction.
Research keeps you from planning in a vacuum. Your team might be amazing, but you and your colleagues simply can’t experience your product the way your customers do. Customers might use your product in a way that surprises you, and product features that seem obvious to you might confuse them. Over-planning and refusing to test your assumptions is a waste of time, money, and effort because you’ll likely need to make changes once your untested business plan gets put into practice.
Lean User Experience (UX) design is a model for continuous improvement that relies on quick, efficient research to understand customer needs and test new product features.
Lean market research can help you become more...
Efficient: it gets you closer to your customers, faster.
Cost-effective: no need to hire an expensive marketing firm to get things started.
Competitive: quick, powerful insights can place your products on the cutting edge.
As a small business or sole proprietor, conducting lean market research is an attractive option when investing in a full-blown research project might seem out of scope or budget.
There are lots of different ways you could conduct market research and collect customer data, but you don’t have to limit yourself to just one research method. Four common types of market research techniques include surveys, interviews, focus groups, and customer observation.
Which method you use may vary based on your business type: ecommerce business owners have different goals from SaaS businesses, so it’s typically prudent to mix and match these methods based on your particular goals and what you need to know.
1. Surveys: the most commonly used
Surveys are a form of qualitative research that ask respondents a short series of open- or closed-ended questions, which can be delivered as an on-screen questionnaire or via email. When we asked 2,000 Customer Experience (CX) professionals about their company’s approach to research , surveys proved to be the most commonly used market research technique.
What makes online surveys so popular?
They’re easy and inexpensive to conduct, and you can do a lot of data collection quickly. Plus, the data is pretty straightforward to analyze, even when you have to analyze open-ended questions whose answers might initially appear difficult to categorize.
We've built a number of survey templates ready and waiting for you. Grab a template and share with your customers in just a few clicks.
💡 Pro tip: you can also get started with Hotjar AI for Surveys to create a survey in mere seconds . Just enter your market research goal and watch as the AI generates a survey and populates it with relevant questions.
Once you’re ready for data analysis, the AI will prepare an automated research report that succinctly summarizes key findings, quotes, and suggested next steps.
An example research report generated by Hotjar AI for Surveys
2. Interviews: the most insightful
Interviews are one-on-one conversations with members of your target market. Nothing beats a face-to-face interview for diving deep (and reading non-verbal cues), but if an in-person meeting isn’t possible, video conferencing is a solid second choice.
Regardless of how you conduct it, any type of in-depth interview will produce big benefits in understanding your target customers.
What makes interviews so insightful?
By speaking directly with an ideal customer, you’ll gain greater empathy for their experience , and you can follow insightful threads that can produce plenty of 'Aha!' moments.
3. Focus groups: the most unreliable
Focus groups bring together a carefully selected group of people who fit a company’s target market. A trained moderator leads a conversation surrounding the product, user experience, or marketing message to gain deeper insights.
What makes focus groups so unreliable?
If you’re new to market research, we wouldn’t recommend starting with focus groups. Doing it right is expensive , and if you cut corners, your research could fall victim to all kinds of errors. Dominance bias (when a forceful participant influences the group) and moderator style bias (when different moderator personalities bring about different results in the same study) are two of the many ways your focus group data could get skewed.
4. Observation: the most powerful
During a customer observation session, someone from the company takes notes while they watch an ideal user engage with their product (or a similar product from a competitor).
What makes observation so clever and powerful?
‘Fly-on-the-wall’ observation is a great alternative to focus groups. It’s not only less expensive, but you’ll see people interact with your product in a natural setting without influencing each other. The only downside is that you can’t get inside their heads, so observation still isn't a recommended replacement for customer surveys and interviews.
The following questions will help you get to know your users on a deeper level when you interview them. They’re general questions, of course, so don’t be afraid to make them your own.
1. Who are you and what do you do?
How you ask this question, and what you want to know, will vary depending on your business model (e.g. business-to-business marketing is usually more focused on someone’s profession than business-to-consumer marketing).
It’s a great question to start with, and it’ll help you understand what’s relevant about your user demographics (age, race, gender, profession, education, etc.), but it’s not the be-all-end-all of market research. The more specific questions come later.
2. What does your day look like?
This question helps you understand your users’ day-to-day life and the challenges they face. It will help you gain empathy for them, and you may stumble across something relevant to their buying habits.
3. Do you ever purchase [product/service type]?
This is a ‘yes or no’ question. A ‘yes’ will lead you to the next question.
4. What problem were you trying to solve or what goal were you trying to achieve?
This question strikes to the core of what someone’s trying to accomplish and why they might be willing to pay for your solution.
5. Take me back to the day when you first decided you needed to solve this kind of problem or achieve this goal.
This is the golden question, and it comes from Adele Revella, Founder and CEO of Buyer Persona Institute . It helps you get in the heads of your users and figure out what they were thinking the day they decided to spend money to solve a problem.
If you take your time with this question, digging deeper where it makes sense, you should be able to answer all the relevant information you need to understand their perspective.
“The only scripted question I want you to ask them is this one: take me back to the day when you first decided that you needed to solve this kind of problem or achieve this kind of a goal. Not to buy my product, that’s not the day. We want to go back to the day that when you thought it was urgent and compelling to go spend money to solve a particular problem or achieve a goal. Just tell me what happened.”
— Adele Revella , Founder/CEO at Buyer Persona Institute
Bonus question: is there anything else you’d like to tell me?
This question isn’t just a nice way to wrap it up—it might just give participants the opportunity they need to tell you something you really need to know.
That’s why Sarah Doody, author of UX Notebook , adds it to the end of her written surveys.
“I always have a last question, which is just open-ended: “Is there anything else you would like to tell me?” And sometimes, that’s where you get four paragraphs of amazing content that you would never have gotten if it was just a Net Promoter Score [survey] or something like that.”
What is the difference between qualitative and quantitative research?
Qualitative research asks questions that can’t be reduced to a number, such as, “What is your job title?” or “What did you like most about your customer service experience?”
Quantitative research asks questions that can be answered with a numeric value, such as, “What is your annual salary?” or “How was your customer service experience on a scale of 1-5?”
→ Read more about the differences between qualitative and quantitative user research .
How do I do my own market research?
You can do your own quick and effective market research by
Surveying your customers
Building user personas
Studying your users through interviews and observation
Wrapping your head around your data with tools like flow models, affinity diagrams, and customer journey maps
What is the difference between market research and user research?
Market research takes a broad look at potential customers—what problems they’re trying to solve, their buying experience, and overall demand. User research, on the other hand, is more narrowly focused on the use (and usability ) of specific products.
What are the main criticisms of market research?
Many marketing professionals are critical of market research because it can be expensive and time-consuming. It’s often easier to convince your CEO or CMO to let you do lean market research rather than something more extensive because you can do it yourself. It also gives you quick answers so you can stay ahead of the competition.
Do I need a market research firm to get reliable data?
Absolutely not! In fact, we recommend that you start small and do it yourself in the beginning. By following a lean market research strategy, you can uncover some solid insights about your clients. Then you can make changes, test them out, and see whether the results are positive. This is an excellent strategy for making quick changes and remaining competitive.
Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS, and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld, and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.
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What is Market Research? Definition, Types, Process, Examples and Best Practices
By Nick Jain
Published on: June 21, 2023
Table of Content
What is Market Research?
Types of market research, market research process, examples of market research, market research methods, best practices for market research in 2023.
Market research is defined as the systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of data about a specific market, industry, or consumer segment. It involves studying customers, competitors, and market dynamics to identify opportunities, mitigate risks, and make informed business decisions.
Market research provides valuable insights into consumer behavior, preferences, and market trends, helping organizations develop effective marketing strategies, launch new products, and optimize their market positioning.
Key components of market research:
Market research typically involves several key components that contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the market and its dynamics. These components include:
- Market Segmentation: Identifying and dividing the target market into distinct segments based on demographics, psychographics, behavior, or other relevant characteristics. This helps tailor marketing strategies to specific customer groups.
- Data Collection: Gathering relevant data from primary and secondary sources. Primary data refers to information collected directly from the target market through surveys, interviews, observations, or experiments. Secondary data involves leveraging existing research, reports, industry databases, or government sources.
- Research Design: Developing a research plan that outlines the objectives, methodology, and timeline for conducting the research. This includes selecting appropriate research methods, determining the sample size, and defining the sampling technique.
- Qualitative Research: Utilizing techniques like interviews, focus groups , or observations to gain in-depth insights into consumer attitudes, opinions, motivations, and behaviors. Qualitative research helps explore underlying reasons and provides a richer understanding of the market.
- Quantitative Research: Employing surveys, questionnaires, or structured data analysis to gather numerical data on a larger scale. Quantitative research enables statistical analysis, measurement of market trends, and generation of quantitative insights and metrics.
- Competitive Analysis: Assessing competitors’ strategies, strengths, weaknesses, market positioning, and offerings. This helps identify market opportunities, potential threats, and areas for differentiation.
- Consumer Behavior Analysis: Examining consumer decision-making processes, buying habits, preferences, and satisfaction levels. Understanding consumer behavior is crucial for developing effective marketing strategies and targeted campaigns.
- Market Size and Forecasting: Estimating the total market size, growth potential, and future trends. Market sizing helps assess the market’s attractiveness and potential demand for products or services.
- Data Analysis: Applying statistical techniques and tools to analyze collected data and derive meaningful insights. This includes data cleaning, segmentation analysis, correlation analysis, regression analysis, and other statistical methods.
- Reporting and Presentation: Summarizing research findings, insights, and recommendations in a clear and concise manner. Effective communication of research results ensures that stakeholders can make informed decisions based on the findings.
These components work together to provide a holistic view of the market, consumer behavior, and competitive landscape, enabling businesses to make informed decisions and develop effective marketing strategies.
Primary Research: Primary research involves collecting data directly from the target market or consumer segment. It is customized and tailored to address specific research objectives. Primary research methods include surveys, interviews, focus groups , observations, and experiments. Primary research allows for the collection of firsthand data and offers more control over the research process.
Secondary Research: Secondary research involves gathering and analyzing existing data that has been previously collected by other sources. This data can include industry reports, government publications, academic studies, market research reports, and online databases. Secondary research helps to gain a broader understanding of the market, industry trends, and historical data. It is a cost-effective way to access existing information and can provide a foundation for further primary research.
Learn more: What is Customer Experience (CX) Research?
Step 1. Define Research Objectives
The first step in market research is to clearly define the research objectives. This involves identifying the specific information needed, the target audience, and the desired outcomes of the research.
Step 2. Design Research Plan
Once the objectives are defined, the next step is to design a research plan that outlines the methodology, data collection techniques, sample size, and timeline. The research plan should be tailored to address the research objectives and provide reliable and valid data.
Step 3 Data Collection
In this stage, data is collected using primary or secondary research methods. Primary research involves gathering data directly from respondents through surveys, interviews, focus groups , or observations. Secondary research involves gathering existing data from published sources, industry reports, or databases.
Step 4. Market research Analysis
Once the data is collected, it needs to be analyzed to identify patterns, trends, and insights. This can involve quantitative research and analysis, such as statistical techniques, or qualitative research and analysis, such as thematic coding or content analysis. The goal is to derive meaningful insights from the data that can inform decision-making.
Step 5. Final Market Research Insights
After analyzing the data, the next step is to interpret the findings and extract actionable insights. This involves drawing conclusions, identifying key trends, and relating them to the research objectives. The insights should provide valuable information that guides marketing strategies, product development, or business decisions.
Step 6. Reporting Research Findings
The final step is to present the research findings in a clear and concise manner. A market research report is typically prepared, which includes an executive summary, methodology, findings, insights, and recommendations. The report should effectively communicate the research results to stakeholders and provide actionable recommendations based on the insights.
Here are some examples of market research. These examples illustrate the diverse applications of market research across various industries and scenarios:
- Customer Satisfaction Market Research : A company conducts a customer satisfaction survey to gather feedback from its existing customers . The survey includes questions about their experience with the product or service, overall satisfaction, likelihood to recommend, and areas for improvement. The results help the company understand customer satisfaction levels, identify key drivers of satisfaction, and take action to enhance the customer experience .
- Pricing Market Research: A business is considering introducing a new product or service and wants to determine the optimal pricing strategy. They conduct pricing research, which involves surveys or conjoint analysis, to gather data on customer price sensitivity, willingness to pay, and perceptions of value. The research helps the company set competitive pricing that aligns with customer expectations and maximizes profitability.
- Market Trend Research: A market research firm monitors industry trends and analyzes market data to provide insights to clients. They track market size, growth rates, industry dynamics, and consumer preferences through secondary research. The analysis helps businesses understand market trends, identify emerging opportunities or threats, and make informed strategic decisions.
- Concept Testing Market Research: A company has developed several product concepts and wants to evaluate their potential success before investing in product development. They conduct concept testing research, which involves presenting the concepts to a target audience through surveys or focus groups . The research helps assess consumer interest, perceived benefits, and purchase intent for each concept, allowing the company to select the most promising one to pursue further.
- Competitor Market Research: A company wants to assess the strengths and weaknesses of its competitors in the market. They conduct competitor analysis, which involves gathering data on competitors’ products, pricing, distribution channels, marketing strategies, and customer perceptions. The insights obtained help the company benchmark against competitors, identify areas of competitive advantage and develop strategies to differentiate itself in the market.
- Ad Testing Market Research: A company is planning to launch a new advertising campaign and wants to assess its effectiveness. They conduct ad testing research, which involves presenting different versions of the ad to a sample audience and gathering user or customer feedback on message comprehension, brand recall, and emotional response. The research helps the company optimize the ad campaign by identifying the most impactful and persuasive elements.
- Market Segmentation Research: A company wants to understand its target market better and tailor marketing strategies to specific customer segments. They conduct market segmentation research, which involves analyzing demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data to identify distinct customer segments with different needs, preferences, and buying behaviors. The segmentation analysis helps the company develop targeted marketing campaigns, messages, and product offerings for each segment.
Learn more: What is Customer Feedback?
- Qualitative Market Research Methods
Qualitative market research methods focus on non-data intensive methods of information gathering and analysis. These methods focus on a small sample of respondents who are probed for an in-depth understanding of a subject. The goal of such a method is to gain an in-depth understanding of the market and consumer behavior based on open-ended questions and discussions.
For example, focus groups , one-on-one interviews, case studies, etc are popular qualitative methods of market research.
- Quantitative Market Research Methods
Quantitative market research focuses on data-intensive methods that return solid data that can be quantitatively analyzed in bulk. These methods often rely on a large sample of respondents who answer a common questionnaire, which may further have an internal logic to branch out to new questions based on answers to previous questions.
Examples of quantitative market research methods are physical survey questionnaires, online feedback surveys, Twitter polls, Net Promoter Score (NPS) questions after a product purchase, customer satisfaction (CSAT) feedback forms, etc.
Market research is a crucial process that helps businesses understand their target market, consumer preferences, industry trends, and competitive landscape. By gathering and analyzing relevant data, companies can make informed decisions and develop effective marketing strategies. Here are some best practices for market research:
1. Define your research objectives: Clearly articulate the goals and purpose of your research. Identify the specific information you need to gather, such as customer insights, market size, competitor analysis, or product feedback.
2. Identify your target audience: Determine the specific demographic or customer segment you want to study. This will help you tailor your research methods and questions to gather the most relevant data.
3. Choose the right research methods: Select the most appropriate research methods based on your objectives and target audience. Common methods include surveys, interviews, focus groups , observation, secondary research, and data analysis.
4. Develop a research plan: Create a detailed plan outlining the research methodology, timeline, and resource allocation. This will ensure that the research is conducted efficiently and effectively.
5. Use a combination of qualitative and quantitative research: Qualitative research methods , such as interviews and focus groups , provide in-depth insights and opinions, while quantitative methods , like surveys and data analysis, offer statistical data and measurable metrics. Combining both approaches provides a comprehensive understanding of the market.
6. Collect data from multiple sources: Gather information from diverse sources, including primary data (collected directly from customers or target audiences) and secondary data (existing research, industry reports, and government data). This multi-source approach enhances the reliability and accuracy of your findings.
7. Maintain data quality and integrity: Ensure the data collected is accurate, reliable, and relevant to your research objectives. Use standardized measurement scales and survey techniques to maintain consistency.
8. Analyze and interpret the data: Use appropriate statistical analysis tools and techniques to analyze the collected data. Look for patterns, trends, and correlations that can provide valuable insights for decision-making.
9. Keep an eye on competitors: Conduct a competitive analysis to understand your competitors’ strategies, strengths, weaknesses, and market positioning. This information can help you identify opportunities and develop effective marketing plans.
10. Stay ethical and maintain privacy: Adhere to ethical guidelines and protect the privacy of participants and their data. Obtain informed consent and ensure confidentiality throughout the research process.
11. Communicate and act on findings: Present your research findings in a clear and concise manner. Translate the insights into actionable strategies and recommendations that can drive business growth.
12. Continuously monitor the market: Market research is an ongoing process. Keep a pulse on industry trends, consumer preferences, and market dynamics to stay ahead of the competition and identify new opportunities.
By following these best practices, businesses can conduct effective market research that informs decision-making, helps identify growth opportunities, and supports the development of successful marketing strategies.
Learn more: What is Online Focus Group?
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What Is Market Research?
- How It Works
- Primary vs. Secondary
- How to Conduct Research
The Bottom Line
- Marketing Essentials
How to Do Market Research, Types, and Example
Joules Garcia / Investopedia
The term market research refers to the process of evaluating the viability of a new service or product through research conducted directly with potential customers. It allows a company to define its target market and get opinions and other feedback from consumers about their interest in a product or service.
Research may be conducted in-house or by a third party that specializes in market research. It can be done through surveys and focus groups, among other ways. Test subjects are usually compensated with product samples or a small stipend for their time.
- Companies conduct market research before introducing new products to determine their appeal to potential customers.
- Tools include focus groups, telephone interviews, and questionnaires.
- The results of market research inform the final design of the product and determine how it will be positioned in the marketplace.
- Market research usually combines primary information, gathered directly from consumers, and secondary information, which is data available from external sources.
How market research works.
Market research is used to determine the viability of a new product or service. The results may be used to revise the product design and fine-tune the strategy for introducing it to the public. This can include information gathered for the purpose of determining market segmentation . It also informs product differentiation , which is used to tailor advertising.
A business engages in various tasks to complete the market research process. It gathers information based on the market sector being targeted by the product. This information is then analyzed and relevant data points are interpreted to draw conclusions about how the product may be optimally designed and marketed to the market segment for which it is intended.
It is a critical component in the research and development (R&D) phase of a new product or service introduction. Market research can be conducted in a number of different ways, including surveys, product testing, interviews, and focus groups
Market research is a critical tool that companies use to understand what consumers want, develop products that those consumers will use, and maintain a competitive advantage over other companies in their industry.
Primary Market Research vs. Secondary Market Research
Market research usually consists of a combination of:
- Primary research, gathered by the company or by an outside company that it hires
- Secondary research, which draws on external sources of data
Primary Market Research
Primary research generally falls into two categories: exploratory and specific research.
- Exploratory research is less structured and functions via open-ended questions. The questions may be posed in a focus group setting, telephone interviews, or questionnaires. It results in questions or issues that the company needs to address about a product that it has under development.
- Specific research delves more deeply into the problems or issues identified in exploratory research.
Secondary Market Research
All market research is informed by the findings of other researchers about the needs and wants of consumers. Today, much of this research can be found online.
Secondary research can include population information from government census data , trade association research reports , polling results, and research from other businesses operating in the same market sector.
History of Market Research
Formal market research began in Germany during the 1920s. In the United States, it soon took off with the advent of the Golden Age of Radio.
Companies that created advertisements for this new entertainment medium began to look at the demographics of the audiences who listened to each of the radio plays, music programs, and comedy skits that were presented.
They had once tried to reach the widest possible audience by placing their messages on billboards or in the most popular magazines. With radio programming, they had the chance to target rural or urban consumers, teenagers or families, and judge the results by the sales numbers that followed.
Types of Market Research
From their earliest days, market research companies would interview people on the street about the newspapers and magazines that they read regularly and ask whether they recalled any of the ads or brands that were published in them. Data collected from these interviews were compared to the circulation of the publication to determine the effectiveness of those ads.
Market research and surveys were adapted from these early techniques.
To get a strong understanding of your market, it’s essential to understand demand, market size, economic indicators, location, market saturation, and pricing.
A focus group is a small number of representative consumers chosen to try a product or watch an advertisement.
Afterward, the group is asked for feedback on their perceptions of the product, the company’s brand, or competing products. The company then takes that information and makes decisions about what to do with the product or service, whether that's releasing it, making changes, or abandoning it altogether.
The man-on-the-street interview technique soon gave way to the telephone interview. A telephone interviewer could collect information in a more efficient and cost-effective fashion.
Telephone research was a preferred tactic of market researchers for many years. It has become much more difficult in recent years as landline phone service dwindles and is replaced by less accessible mobile phones.
As an alternative to focus groups, surveys represent a cost-effective way to determine consumer attitudes without having to interview anyone in person. Consumers are sent surveys in the mail, usually with a coupon or voucher to incentivize participation. These surveys help determine how consumers feel about the product, brand, and price point.
Online Market Research
With people spending more time online, market research activities have shifted online as well. Data collection still uses a survey-style form. But instead of companies actively seeking participants by finding them on the street or cold calling them on the phone, people can choose to sign up and take surveys and offer opinions when they have time.
This makes the process far less intrusive and less rushed, since people can participate on their own time and of their own volition.
How to Conduct Market Research
The first step to effective market research is to determine the goals of the study. Each study should seek to answer a clear, well-defined problem. For example, a company might seek to identify consumer preferences, brand recognition, or the comparative effectiveness of different types of ad campaigns.
After that, the next step is to determine who will be included in the research. Market research is an expensive process, and a company cannot waste resources collecting unnecessary data. The firm should decide in advance which types of consumers will be included in the research, and how the data will be collected. They should also account for the probability of statistical errors or sampling bias .
The next step is to collect the data and analyze the results. If the two previous steps have been completed accurately, this should be straightforward. The researchers will collect the results of their study, keeping track of the ages, gender, and other relevant data of each respondent. This is then analyzed in a marketing report that explains the results of their research.
The last step is for company executives to use their market research to make business decisions. Depending on the results of their research, they may choose to target a different group of consumers, or they may change their price point or some product features.
The results of these changes may eventually be measured in further market research, and the process will begin all over again.
Benefits of Market Research
Market research is essential for developing brand loyalty and customer satisfaction. Since it is unlikely for a product to appeal equally to every consumer, a strong market research program can help identify the key demographics and market segments that are most likely to use a given product.
Market research is also important for developing a company’s advertising efforts. For example, if a company’s market research determines that its consumers are more likely to use Facebook than X (formerly Twitter), it can then target its advertisements to one platform instead of another. Or, if they determine that their target market is value-sensitive rather than price-sensitive, they can work on improving the product rather than reducing their prices.
Market research only works when subjects are honest and open to participating.
Example of Market Research
Many companies use market research to test new products or get information from consumers about what kinds of products or services they need and don’t currently have.
For example, a company that’s considering starting a business might conduct market research to test the viability of its product or service. If the market research confirms consumer interest, the business can proceed confidently with its business plan . If not, the company can use the results of the market research to make adjustments to the product to bring it in line with customer desires.
What Are the Main Types of Market Research?
The main types of market research are primary research and secondary research. Primary research includes focus groups, polls, and surveys. Secondary research includes academic articles, infographics, and white papers.
Qualitative research gives insights into how customers feel and think. Quantitative research uses data and statistics such as website views, social media engagement, and subscriber numbers.
What Is Online Market Research?
Online market research uses the same strategies and techniques as traditional primary and secondary market research, but it is conducted on the internet. Potential customers may be asked to participate in a survey or give feedback on a product. The responses may help the researchers create a profile of the likely customer for a new product.
What Are Paid Market Research Surveys?
Paid market research involves rewarding individuals who agree to participate in a study. They may be offered a small payment for their time or a discount coupon in return for filling out a questionnaire or participating in a focus group.
What Is a Market Study?
A market study is an analysis of consumer demand for a product or service. It looks at all of the factors that influence demand for a product or service. These include the product’s price, location, competition, and substitutes as well as general economic factors that could influence the new product’s adoption, for better or worse.
Market research is a key component of a company’s research and development (R&D) stage. It helps companies understand in advance the viability of a new product that they have in development and to see how it might perform in the real world.
Britannica Money. “ Market Research .”
U.S. Small Business Administration. “ Market Research and Competitive Analysis .”
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